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The Accidental Successor

Posted by Amy Wilson on May 13, 2009

There are two kinds of successors. Which are you planning for?

1. The cherry-picked successor – this is a person that has been identified for long-term potential based on things like cultural fit, learning agility, career ambition, etc. This individual is not likely ready for the job tomorrow, but instead needs a series of development opportunities (stretch assignments, coaching, other jobs) to become ready. It takes work to identify these successors and even more work to groom them properly.

2. The accidental successor – this is a person who would take the job tomorrow if the incumbent was hit by a bus. The organization could limp along indefinitely with this person at the healm. It’s easy to put this person’s name on the succession slate – there’s really no work involved. They could do the job (sort of) and there’s no development necessary. Wasn’t that easy? Who said succession planning was hard?

You can certainly have both, but if you only plan for #2, the best you can hope for is getting hit by a bus. Is that any way to run a business?

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