[For the past several weeks I have focused my writing efforts on an upcoming book my business partner, Moss Jackson, and I are writing about Succession Planning and have been ignoring the blog.  Erin Palmer, who works with Villanova University’s online human resources programs, and writes about project management including the  PMP certification training  training and business intelligence topics such as business intelligence certification, saved the day by authoring this guest post. Thanks, Erin!]

There aren’t many characters as cool as James Bond. He has the cars, the gadgets and the charisma to get out of even the most difficult situations. With such high standards to live up to, casting James Bond is no easy feat. Every actor that played him had to live up to all of the 007’s from years past, which is not an easy suit to fill. The James Bond franchise is a great example of the importance of succession planning. Over the past 40 years, the 007 franchise has been able to almost seamlessly transition from one lead actor to another while remaining a blockbuster success.

Succession planning is the key to longevity in any business.  Many companies focus energy and resources strictly on a retention plan, but it is a misstep to put all of your focus into this particular strategy. By concentrating on succession planning, you ensure that leadership roles will be filled with the right candidates who are properly aligned with your organization’s goals.

Benefits of Succession Planning

Whether it was Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan, the numbers at the box office and the enthusiasm of movie goers reflect how succession planning can be so critical to your bottom line. If the audience can’t connect with the actor playing Mr. Bond, the films would falter. When casting a new James Bond, the film’s producers look for specific qualities to assure that the actor is right for the job.

Succession planning forces businesses to look within and identify those key individuals who possess the leadership qualities and essential soft skills that may have otherwise been overlooked. Many business leaders, however, miss the incredible potential right under their noses. When Daniel Craig became James Bond, there was an initial flood of outrage at the idea of a blonde James Bond. The filmmakers looked past his hair because they saw his talent. Examining the talent within an office can yield unexpected results.

Looking within for successors also has a positive effect on company morale. Knowing there is not only room for advancement but potential grooming for a leadership role incentivizes employees to stay put instead of looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

Succession planning also ensures there will be no break in productivity should a project manager depart the company unexpectedly. This also means customer satisfaction and loyalty can remain high. Work can’t cease when an employee departs, so it is smart to consider long-term plans for your company.

Finally, one of the biggest benefits of incorporating a succession plan is the competitive edge it offers. By developing employees from within, rather than hiring new employees who have little experience with the company or its clientele, you are decreasing learning curves and increasing potential time to market.

Make a plan before it’s too late

The James Bond franchise has stayed one step ahead of the game during its entire 40 year big screen run. When the lead actor even hinted at the idea of stepping down, or when the studio felt the need for a fresher, younger Bond, all hands were called on deck and the search for the new Bond began immediately, before the veteran actor stepped down.

Your business would be wise to follow suit. Waiting until the day after your key project manager retires is NOT the time to start hunting for or training his or her successor. Ideally a succession plan should be put into place long before the actual changing of the guards. This ensures a seamless transition with minimal risk.

Also, the selection committee needs to develop a crystal clear understanding of the most significant challenges the company is likely to face over the next five to ten years, and the skills and experiences the project managers will need in order to lead the company past those hurdles. Do not simply look for younger versions of current leaders, but find those who are endowed with the necessary leadership qualities of the future. Succession planning is an ongoing process, not a one-off job.

Get outside advice

When it comes time to find a new James Bond, the franchises’ key players seek outside advice on the direction they should go next. For instance, studios research an actor’s box office potential, they study the numbers and make predictions – and producers and casting agents watch auditions with a keen eye toward finding an actor who possesses that certain quality – who has what it takes to become the next 007.

When the time comes to start looking for successors within your organization, remember to seek advice from others who may offer fresh perspectives and the ability to think outside the corporate box. You don’t want to overlook the human potential just beyond your office door.

From box office to board rooms, succession planning is key to any business that wants to grow and adapt with the changing times. Implement a strategy early and take into consideration the future of your company and those skills that will be needed, and you will no doubt find the right candidates whose goals and vision align with your own.

 

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