It’s a sad time for Singapore and the world in general. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of the country passed away leaving behind a legacy of prosperity and change. Just last week I talked about how he was an Iconic Servant Leader from whom many people could learn from and his recent demise made me think about succession planning. Specifically,

Are people forgetting about the importance of succession planning because people join and leave organizations so much faster than before?

In other words, are people thinking about people within the organization who can step up to leadership positions or are they assuming that most of them will probably not stick around, so it’s better to acquire talent from outside? Well, here are the 3 most important things to keep in mind for a successful succession planning strategy and reminders for why it will never be an outdated HR concept.

1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Aren’t policies, web pages, documents and procedures pretty little things? So many people put in a great amount of time wording them right, making them look nice, making sure everyone knows they’re there. But for whatever their reasons may be, a good number of these companies never act on the policies and procedures they make.

Your company needs to be ready for the worst. What if one of your C-Leaders was to die tomorrow. It could happen. It does happen. Will your organization be in a state of panic because they don’t know who’s ready to step up and take charge? Or are they going to be sad but prepared because work never stops? If you’ve put your succession planning strategies into action, hopefully it will be the latter.

2. Never Ever Let the Size of Your Company Fool You

It doesn’t matter if you have 2 people in your company or 5000. There are key leaders who are the backbone of your company and if for whatever reason, they can no longer fulfill their responsibilities you need someone who’s ready to take charge.

I think it just might be harder to have a succession plan for a small company because even though you may know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses the talent pool is just not that big. In such situations, if you’re lucky you’ll have one or two candidates who can be groomed to be future leaders. To make sure your efforts aren’t wasted, constant communications need to be part of the program to ensure that firstly they’re interested in the position you’re considering them for and secondly they’re motivated to stay within the organization.

3. Create a Shortlist, Not a Candidate

More often than not and especially with smaller companies, individuals are selected for succession planning programs rather than shortlisting a selection of candidates. It’s usually because the person selected is naturally the “right” person to take over.

What happens with this limited type of thinking is that you often don’t explore opportunities outside the current function or region. What if there’s a person in another city who would be equally a good fit and more likely to stay within the company? Never should all your eggs be in one basket because what if the person you’re grooming doesn’t work out? There should absolutely be a shortlist for succession planning and never one single initiative.

Succession planning isn’t an easy part of the game. Its probably one of the more important functions of strategic HR and is very important for the success of any organization. Do you disagree with any of the above? Would you put another factor in as the most important part of succession planning? Share your ideas below.