Do you have a Succession Plan?

1930 Providence road mapYou may well think this post doesn’t really apply to you — after all, aren’t Succession Plans those things big companies have that lay out how they should develop their key internal people? Or they are those formal plans that business owners have (or should have!) so they can get ready to hand over the keys to their company to the new owner and exit stage left, off to enjoy retirement?

Sure, those are both true, and maybe those scenarios are not your current reality or concern, but when you stop to think about it, don’t we all need a “succession plan”?

In essence, a succession plan is just a road map that addresses “Where am I (are we) trying to get to, and what’s the set of steps to get (me, us) there?” 

Of course, depending on the situation and the target audience, that basic framing drives a lot of other questions that become relevant to the “succession plan”, such as:

  • How do I move up and/or out of the organization?
  • Where do I want to be in 1, 2, 5 years and how can I get there?
  • What does success (for me) look like in this next portion of my life, and when do i want to be there?
  • What do I need to know (what skills do I need to gain) for success in the next leg of my journey, and how do I gain those skills?

I’m sure you get the picture — the specific questions you can ask yourself are endless and are highly dependent on your situation and where you are heading, however the general approach is generic enough. We could all use one of these road maps, whether we are job seekers, employees, business owners, free agents, or stay-at-home care-givers. The alternative is the “same-old, same-old”, indefinitely. And one thing you know already — change is coming. You’re either going to influence that change and help make it work for you, or it’s going to be done to you, by someone or something else, and you’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it. On their terms. Guaranteed.

If you don’t already have a reasonably thought-through game plan in place (for your life, your business, your career, or whatever is your priority focus these days) for what you want to accomplish over the next 1 to 2 years, why not carve out a bit of focused time in the next few weeks and start to map out your own personal Succession Plan for the current 12 month window, and beyond?  The best way to start is a bit of future casting (I’ve also heard this referred to as “back casting”) where you put yourself into the future (say, 2 years out from today) and describe, in present tense, what your “future reality” looks like. Write it down, and get as specific as possible. That’s where you are wanting to head.

OK, now back in the present — there is now a clear gap between “today”, and your “future reality”, where you are trimmer, healthier, have more friends, a bigger office, a better home life, or some combination of things that are important to you.

How are you going to close that gap? If it’s 2 years, that’s 24 months, 104 weeks, 730 days. Lots of time — if you do something towards your “future reality” every day. Every week. Consistently.

So, break it down into workable chunks. What does ‘healthier” actually look like? Losing weight? More exercise? Walking daily? Re-starting yoga? How frequently? Daily? Weekly? How are you going to reward yourself for meeting daily and weekly goals? (Hint — don’t choose a reward that works directly against your goals — that’s like running up the down escalator, and it just adds to the workload).

[Here are some related links to other articles on this blog that you might find helpful: greatest teacher; psychology of change; happiness; habits and mastering change]

Here’s the kicker: planning and managing change and achieving milestones has a time horizon, and you have to respect it, work it, and be consistent and deliberate. Case in point: many small business owners think that they can “flip” their business and get out within 12 months. That’s rarely true, and usually only if they’re willing to take a substantial haircut on their selling price, if they are even lucky enough to find a buyer. More typically, it probably takes 5 years or more to execute an effective business owner succession plan — so if you run a business and want to retire in 5 years, start your succession planning now.

On a career change, same thing. You want to move into another position, or another industry? Sure, you CAN wait for the job to be posted and then apply for it, but your chances of success with that approach are pretty low. Much better to start laying the ground work now — build your network, find out what kinds of skills you might have to add to your portfolio, conduct some information meetings with people currently in those roles and learn from that. Gotta have a plan, and gotta work that plan. That all takes time.

The best news about developing your own personal “succession plan”? If you’re bored, or stressed, or worried, developing a workable plan, and working it, can be a great coping mechanism. Make sure it has lots of reasonably small measurable steps, and celebrate each success along the way. That way, you know you are making real progress, and your confidence grows with each step. That makes you more resilient to the inevitable pot holes and detours along the way, because, you know there will be some pot holes. Just a regular part of the road.

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