Succession Plans: A House of Cards?

By: Jessica Bigazzi Foster

If there is one concern for our clients that has begun to drown out many others, it’s the lack of depth and strength in their executive talent pipelines. Who will solve the complex challenges they know lie ahead of them? Who will take the place of the flood of retiring baby boomers (reaching the age of 65 in the U.S. at a rate of 10,000 per day)? How can they go deep enough in the organization to find that next generation of leaders and get them ready?

The challenge ahead of them is marked by a number of common problems:

  • We have many well-laid succession plans, but when we try to enact them, they fall apart like a house of cards. They are plagued by poor data, lack of candor, over reliance on past performance over future potential, and lack of alignment on the criteria for success.
  • The next generation of leaders does not look, act, or think like the leadership ranks they are replacing. If we apply old models and assumptions, we are building leadership for a reality that won’t exist in 10 years.
  • We have invested a lot in systems, models, and programs to advance our talent, but they are disconnected from each other and don’t tie together in a meaningful way.
  • Our hit rate isn’t good enough. We have a string of executive promotions that failed and resulted in going outside to find quick replacements.
  • Our talent and development dollars are limited. We can only invest in talent with the highest likelihood of success.

Based on our 70+ years experience of working with leaders at the top and observing their transitions into senior roles, we have looked at common failures and common success stories. We have identified the skillsets and capabilities that are uniquely required in complex, enterprise-level roles. The output of this experience and research is RHR’s Readiness for Scale℠ assessment. Readiness for Scale is specifically tailored to help companies answer the crucial question “Who will lead this company into the next generation?”

Identifying the Next Generation of Leaders: Part One of a Three-Part Series


Our insights and thinking, direct to your inbox.