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After You, Who?

After You, Who?

To create a culture of succession in your shop use this checklist to lay the foundation

Reader ROI

  • CIOs' tips for putting a plan together
  • Why you need a succession plan

CIOs know how to manage their own careers - few reach such lofty heights without mapping out some kind of a campaign. But what about succession planning? How many CIOs think about how their own career plans affect the prospects of those around them and the future of their companies?

The answer is, not many, according to leadership specialists and others with a bird's-eye view of executive continuity. They say this needs to change if CIOs expect to close the profession's looming leadership gap.

Companies traditionally focus on positioning employees and managers to meet the immediate needs of the business. Succession planning, on the other hand, is necessary because it creates leaders for the future, says UPS CIO Dave Barnes, who rose to that position three years ago through the shipping giant's development plan.

"It's knowing what leadership teams you have to have in place in the future to drive your strategy," he says. "We don't want them to be a mirror of us today; we want them to be ready for tomorrow."

Few C-level executives are looking that far into the future, says Chris Patrick, a partner at executive recruiting firm Egon Zehnder International. Executives often know which skills and attributes a company values in its leaders, but that's not the same as developing a plan to deliver on that vision. "Succession planning is more often than not an afterthought that is not sufficiently managed or thought through," Patrick says.

For CIOs who want to develop that long view of leadership, there is no right or wrong way to craft a succession plan. Some may prefer to try case-by-case training and mentoring; others may want to document a process that includes formal evaluations and a line item in the budget for management and technical development. CIOs who do succession planning agree that a good plan is flexible, it adapts to an organization's needs and people, and it should be established in cooperation with HR. But it should be placed within the office of the CIO.

What follows is a succession plan checklist drawn from the experiences of CIOs who have successfully developed a process for fostering leadership in their IT organizations.

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