#cajobportal Insights #091216 #RIP Amma #Succession Planning #Shoes too large to fill
AIADMK is suddenly in the midst of a major crisis with the demise of Ms. J Jayalalithaa on Monday. The iconic leader, popularly known as ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (revolutionary leader) ran the party single-handedly. She left virtually no successor who can match her calibre. The party faces the gigantic task of finding a widely accepted interim leader, who will hold it together.
(In this photograph from 2013, J. Jayalalithaa arrives at a party meeting while O. Panneersaelvam, who is now Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, waits in the corner. Credit: M. Vedhan, The Hindu)
The fact of the matter is that AIADMK is stumbling without Jaya, but so is the are most of the political parties in India; being run as solo shows by the Naveen Patnaiks, Mayawatis and Mamata Banerjees of the world. All these leaders are known to be autocratic, encouraging of sycophancy and ruthless towards dissent. However be the quantum of exaggerated flattery, they do not trust anybody and are essentially loners. In all these parties, there is no clear alternative to the existing leaders.
Let us run a similar test in our companies. Do we similarly have an iconic Chartered Accountant who has been meticulously handling Banking & Treasury since the last 10 years, leaving others in awe, so much that no one can fathom the smooth functioning of the department without him/her? Similarly, it could so happen that your Taxation Head has been handling litigations worth hundreds of crores, at various appellate levels; and no one in the company has virtually any clue about the intricacies involved.
Is Succession planning, as a process is virtually non-existent?? What are the consequences of the same?
In recent years several Fortune 100 companies have found themselves grappling with the pitfalls that leadership vacuums can create, with the turbulent global economy only compounding the impact of those challenges.
Succession planning and leadership development are natural allies because they share a vital and fundamental goal: getting the right skills in the right place.
William Rothwell defines the term as a “preservation of institutional memory”. He goes on to say it is “a ‘deliberate and systematic effort’ designed to ensure the continued effective performance of an organization, division, department, or work group by making provision for the development and replacement of key people over time.”
The Australians, in particular, manage succession planning very well. When Steve Waugh retired, everyone knew Ricky Ponting was his successor, and had known for some time; Ponting already had considerable authority.
The benefits of succession planning are numerous:
- It serves as contingency planning and keeps the organization well prepared for any sudden attrition that may happen and reduces the impact of losing key employees to a great extent
- Managers get to identify various skill-sets among the team members and their strengths come to light
- Employees who are identified as successors based on the skill-sets they possess can be groomed well to handle the relevant positions, and any deficiencies sorted out through training
- Employees who get to understand that their organization has future plans for them, will tend to stay with the organization for longer time
The legendary Jack Welch famously declared more than a decade before he retired as head of General Electric that, from then on, choosing a successor would be the most important task left to him, and that he thought about it every day.
The company is well known for its exhaustive and systematic approach to identifying and cultivating its business leaders. GE‘s past three CEOs (Reg Jones, Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt Jeff Immelt) are starkly different people. In leadership succession, GE has done a good job of looking “through the windshield” rather than “in the rear-view mirror” to understand the leadership skills required of the next CEO. It also requires it to invest in forecasting the future and the challenges required
It applies not just for the CEO and Chairman, but across the hierarchy. Succession planning is an integral part of the business continuity plan. And leaders help grow other leaders, and are expected to aid in the cultivation of their own replacements.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd has the famed Lister programme, which seeks to create future chief executives and which the company seems to have refined and perfected over the years, creating new evaluation metrics for so-called Lever Listers and also orchestrating their career moves within the company.
Hindustan Unilever has in place an incredible talent grooming machinery. The Talent Super League (TSL) that gets everyone charged up. The Commissioner of The League and the HR senior leaders ensure that HUL talent machinery churns out winners consistently. More than 400 CEOs (including within Unilever) have had HUL work-ex on their CVs. More than 200 HUL managers serve positions in Unilever across the globe. The HUL campus that houses the ‘Fifty weeks of Training’ is akin to GE’s Crotonville management campus. The future listers go an intensive mentoring program that encompasses 70% training on the job, 20% by coaching, mentoring and the remaining 10% through e-learning and classroom training.
Across the company, every person gets a performance and capability card. This is an e-card, you can download it, which tells you how you are rated, whether you are a ‘lister’, which box of the 9 boxed matrix you are in, what is your potential, what is your likely next job, what does the company think about your potential, what is the kind of development plan that you have… So every person has clarity, where he or she stands. This is shared transparently.
Hand-offs from one leader to the next are tricky because of the politics and intrigue that surrounds them, the complex nature of the position and the dynamic nature of companies. However, it is a process that is of utmost importance, from a business continuity standpoint. Better off, if it starts while the iconic leader is still at the helm of affairs. So that sudden events do not leave behind a void that the company finds it difficult to fill.
Make sure that your company does not have someone whose shoes are too big to fill.