Tom Magness, over on his Leader Business blog, has a great post on succession planning, drawing on the example of the University of Texas having to deal with a serious injury to its star quarterback during the opening quarter of the national championship game earlier this month. During that game, Texas had to rely on a very young, inexperienced backup. Magness provides some great simple lessons on succession including the following:
"Simulations and contingency plans must address the loss of key leaders. Most of our "what if" drills involve things like the loss of a key customer, the failure of an important system or piece of equipment, or the interruption in the supply chain. But "what if" we lose a key leader? Are we prepared? Have we practiced under those conditions? Have we established contingency plans so that we can quickly integrate new leaders without losing momentum? Are we prepared to adjust the game plan to be able to operate under the new conditions and still accomplish the mission?"
I can recall one company with whom I've worked that ran a very interesting exercise for it senior leaders. The exercise focused on a major catastrophic event that could impact the business. Each senior executive reported to the CEO's office at the start of this exercise, and immediately, several of them were told that they had been injured/incapacitated during the disaster. Thus, they were not available to work during this time. They were told to leave the exercise. Now, the simulation proceeded with several junior people asked to step in for their bosses. What a wonderful way to evaluate the organization's capability to respond to a crisis, while also evaluating how well prepared the bench was to "go into the game."