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Cloning and the Art of Succession Planning

Posted by Ken Klaus on April 7, 2008


I caught an episode from season 2 of Futurama last week titled A Clone of My Own, thanks to a recent acquisition (by me, not Oracle), of a DVR player. In this episode Professor Farnsworth, the owner of an interplanetary delivery service and inventor extraordinaire, is celebrating his 150th birthday. During his party the professor laments, “There’s no one to carry on after I’m gone, no one to take care of my work and my research and my fabulous fortune. I’ve got to name a successor. There’s no time to lose. I’m off to my lab to build a successor-naming machine!” A potentially lucrative opportunity, for what pioneering software company worth its salt wouldn’t jump at the chance to acquire such an invention? Alas, after much time and effort the professor completes his machine only to discover that none of his employees are up to the job. So he does what any mad software vendor, er um, I mean scientific genius would do, he clones himself, resulting in much mayhem and hilarity.

Thankfully cloning isn’t an option for us average Joes. Unfortunately most of us don’t have access to a successor-naming machine either; but this does not mean we’re helpless when it comes to succession planning. We can start by identifying each of the key positions in the organization that drive our business and consider how the business would be impacted if someone working in one of these positions were to leave. Next, we can identify the high performers in each of these essential roles and create a profile of the attributes that make them successful. A good profile will include hard skills for job competencies, degrees, and certifications as well as soft skills like enthusiasm, creativity, flexibility, and perseverance. Once we have a strong profile definition we’re ready to find the high potential candidates who already fit the profile as well as those who are a close match and create individual development plans that will help each employee reach the next level.

Succession planning is a critical component for any talent management strategy and requires proactive rather than reactive timing; because looking for a successor after a person leaves puts the business at undue risk. Identifying critical positions in your organization, defining key profiles for these roles, locating high potential employees, and investing in development requires planning and commitment. And even if science could solve the problem of succession for us, I’m guessing it still wouldn’t work out the way we hoped; because as any fan of the sci-fi genre knows something always goes wrong – think Jurassic Park! But growing high potential employees into key roles is a safe and proven methodology for keeping your business strong and your employees happy.

One Response to “Cloning and the Art of Succession Planning”

  1. […] in your organization, let alone develop them (unless of course you have access to Deep Thought or Professor Farnsworth). This is a task for your managers, directors, and senior executives. I also subscribe to the idea […]

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