The high-profile resignations this week of both the Shadow Chancellor and the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications serve as a timely reminder of the importance of succession planning in all organisations. As illustrated by the events this week, people may suddenly become indisposed for a whole range of reasons – not just stepping under the proverbial bus. What would be the effect on your organisation if a senior executive had to leave suddenly; how quickly could he or she be replaced? In assessing the impact one must consider not only the direct impact of losing their skills and knowledge but also the potential reputational damage of being seen to bungle the appointment of a replacement.
It is important to remember though that succession planning goes far beyond the board and executive suite: anywhere in the organisation where there is a small number of people with unique skills and knowledge represents a risk of disruption. Some of the risk can be mitigated by ensuring that work processes are properly documented and that key information such as passwords is stored securely but it is also worth considering cross-training of staff so as they can cover for each other in the event of absence (short or long term).