Succession plans are fundamental for the delivery of the organizations’ strategy. Many organizations have (unfortunately) a short-sighted approach in creating or thinking about the succession plans. Organizations often focus their efforts and attention only on the top-level, the management. With this approach, they assume that the technical and social knowledge which is retained at the “lower” levels of the organization is not that important. I understand that the “top-level” has more responsibilities for the strategy; howeve, the other part of the organization is responsible for the delivery of the strategy.
Then, if an employee leaves, whatever responsibilities he/she has, a replacement needs to be found. Founding replacements does not mean only replacing the skillset; in fact, it is also mean working on the social network that needs to be (re)-created and the need of maintaining the same level of delivery. Activating the recruiting “machine” with an “asap” approach focused on the technical knowledge/skillset does not really work.
Finally, when a person leaves also his/her knowledge goes away. It happens because the personal knowledge (technical, political and social) is “communicated” but not stored. It is true that technology has changed the knowledge sharing (and retention) processes, but (luckily, in some extent) we still share information in person.
Considering what just mentioned, instead of panicking in order to find who “will be able to do the job”, what can organizations do to prevent this succession plan crisis? The solution is creating a knowledge sharing culture and work on the implementation of knowledge sharing systems; knowledge is a real treasure for the organizations. It is so important because many times does not really matter who is going to do something but the how counts much more. If your organization wants to be successful in the long run a more systematic approach for the knowledge sharing is needed.