Source: Philanthropy Journal by Terrie Temkin
Everyone is talking about succession planning today. Much of the conversation is motivated by the large numbers of baby boomer executives expected to retire in the next few years.
While this is a real concern deserving of our strategic attention, I have to wonder why so little attention is paid to succession on our boards of directors.
After all, turnover is virtually an everyday occurrence on boards. Term limits and life’s challenges move people out of office or off the board altogether on a regular basis; and fewer and fewer individuals are stepping up and into the vacated leadership positions.
The result is that boards often are forced to choose creative approaches to filling the empty chairs, such as allowing people to share leadership responsibilities or conferring key positions on inexperienced talent.
Unfortunately, experience tells us that such solutions typically result in a loss of organizational momentum or effectiveness.
But this needn’t be the case if we will commit to adequately preparing our boards for transition.
I doubt there is anything we can do to bring back the days where people will spend a decade or more working their way up to a coveted leadership position. But a strong succession plan is within reach of every organization.
To see how, we must first consider what a succession plan really is, and what it isn’t.
It isn’t about knowing who the next three board chairs will be. It is ensuring that you have a strong board with clear procedures in place, where everyone understands the big picture, is engaged and knows his or her role.
In other words, the best succession plan is having a board that regularly operates under proven practices, because a board like that will be able to continue to perform effectively regardless of what position may turn up empty tomorrow or the next day.
To determine if your board is prepared for the inevitable expected transition – to say nothing of the sudden one – answer these questions: