The Value Stream of Succession Planning and Leader Development

Dal un articolo interessante di Jamie Flinchbaugh sulla successione dei leader in qualsiasi organizzazione, sulla loro pianificazione e formazione necessaria…

by Jamie Flinchbaugh, co-author, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean

What’s the purpose of thinking about work as a value stream? Is it just a buzzword? It helps us identify how our activities connect and flow together in order to deliver value to some customer. So let’s look at the process of succession planning and development from that perspective. Succession planning as a value stream might be considered a subset of the much larger talent development value stream (see wikipedia on succession planning).

When we don’t think of succession planning as a value stream, we just think in terms of the end result. The end result is knowing who will replace a key position if that person leaves, is fired, or is otherwise not available. Most organizations skip to the final result: they name one person who best fits into that role. That answers the open question on the table, but it doesn’t solve the real problem, which is how do I get someone to the point that they could replace someone.

GE is an example of someone doing this right. They have systems, evaluations, relationships, goals, and resources all designed on developing leaders to their full potential with the assumption that tomorrow’s division presidents and CEOS are working somewhere in the company today. When Jack Welch was getting ready for his retirement, he had 3-4 individuals that he, the board, and the shareholders all would have been comfortable as a replacement. Warren Buffett is in a similar situation, with 2-3 “deemed worthy” successors sitting in the wings. On the other hand, no one can imagine or can see anyone being groomed and prepared to take over for Steve Jobs at Apple. The naming of a successor is not just an event, it is instead the end result of a thought out and managed value stream of leaders.

As with any value stream, we must consider its design and execution in the context of the changing environment in which it operates. As it relates to succession planning, a great example is found in the privately-held family business. The commonly-accepted flow was that “dad” (it’s not always dad but the majority still is) would run the business until they were in their 50s or 60s at which point they would retire. The son, daughter, son-in-law, or other next-generation-representative would then take over in their 30s or 40s with some experience behind them but also plenty of time to make their own mark and take the business to a new level. How is the environment changing? Quite clearly, each generation is living longer, and working longer. This has a dramatic impact on the value stream. If dad is going to run the business until they are 75, son doesn’t want to wait until they are 50 to take over. So instead they leave and find something else to do. Now there is no one “downstream” in the succession process to take over. Right now there are many privately-held business in that condition looking for a solution in ownership and leadership.

How do you look at succession planning as a value stream? Ask yourself these questions:

First, what is the value, what are customers willing to pay for? This is defined by having a clear leadership model. There is no right leadership model, you must develop that based on who you are, who you want to become, and where you want to be.

Second, what is the takt time, or customer demand rate? You will need to develop leaders at a certain pace, and that pace is probably constantly in flux depending on your current conditions. If you industry is headed for a certain level of decline, it might not be as attractive and you have to develop people at a faster pace to replace outgoing leaders. It’s just as important to know if you have a slow need for new leadership.

Third, understand the activities that make up that value stream, from initial hiring to exit. Look at the flow. Very often, there is a great deal of batching of the development of leaders centered around late in the value stream. It is very helpful to spread more of that change upstream to earlier in a leader’s career. Although it is spread across more “product” that may not make it, it is cheaper and those investments have longer to pay you back.

Lastly, measure it, manage it, and improve it. Measure you pace, your success rate, and your fallout in the succession planning value stream.


Ciao, sono Dragan Bosnjak e sono qui per guidarti nella scoperta del mondo di lean thinking!

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