Whilst the recent dramatic resignations of Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates could cause much disruption, they will probably not lead to the collapse of the Metropolitan Police. For a smaller organisation though, the loss of even one critical member of staff could pose a significant threat to the business.
As events at Scotland Yard have illustrated, people may suddenly become indisposed for a whole range of reasons – not just stepping under the proverbial bus or winning the lottery. 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 could lead to disruption. Some of the risk can be mitigated by ensuring that work processes are properly documented and that key information, such as IT 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).