By Janine McDonald

In a nutshell, succession planning is about having the right number of people with the right skills, experiences and competencies in the right jobs at the right time.

Nonprofit boards navigating through a leadership transition can be tumultuous, but it doesn't have to be.  An unexpected leadership departure  does not have to mean a crisis.

It’s important to build a systematic and integrated approach to succession planning.  This process involves assessing people (and their interests), positions and potential.

Succession planning is a continuous process that includes:

    • Understanding the job

    • Agreeing on expectations

    • Establishing an evaluation process

    • Developing  a leadership transition plan

    • Search, selection and appointment

Having a plan helps to foster continuity and stability for the organization.  For one nonprofit whose leader was at the helm for over twenty years, having a solid transition plan in place helped the new Executive Director step in successfully.  Partly, because the pre-work described above had been done and the plan involved a series of steps over a period of six months.

In another situation, when a chief executive left more suddenly, the transition plan was critical to the continued operation of several early education centers.  A new leader had not yet been identified, and it would involve a search. In the interim, a plan was enacted and because there was clarity around the job and expectations the disruptions were minimized.  Had this not been the case, morale could have been severely impacted, services interrupted and possibly the reputation of the organization harmed.

Taking these steps will help create an environment for people to succeed from the beginning until the cycle is repeated with their successors.

If you need one-on-one help with succession planning or other issues regarding your organization, contact us for a complimentary consultation with one of our experts. 

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