Donna Rae Scheffert

Donna Rae Scheffert helps create a succession-plan and recommends processes for organizations.

Organize for Succession-Plan

“Organizational survival is the ultimate indicator of success. (Hannan and Freeman, 1989)

Three tasks are involved in developing a succession-plan. They include organizing, separating by the founder-CEO, and on-boarding the new CEO.

Planning Efforts and Team

The process starts by engaging the board in the development of a forward-looking skills-and-experience profile for the CEO. Boards can--and really must--play an important role in planning.

Directors must be aggressive and unwavering in their efforts to make the process as real as possible. Diligent board involvement can make a big difference. In this effort, directors have to remember that the search for a "ready now" candidate is a fool's errand. Thus, it can take some work to do right.

What is most critical is creating and continually refocusing on the moving target of the knowledge, skills and abilities the next CEO will need in order to effectively lead.

Finally, directors need to design their planning not just to choose the new executive but also to provide support as he or she finds his or her legs in the new role. Some tasks include:

• Establish a planning team

• Review the entire staff team & identify where internal talent can be used and where external talent must be found (staff profile of functions and competencies with assets and gaps identified)

• Define critical and preferred competencies and experiences for candidates (position description)

• Develop hiring process, appoint team, and prepare supporting materials

• Hire best talent 

Founder Separation

“Never lose track of the fact that you are creating something that will be owned by the community. Your job is to 'sell your shares' bit by bit so that more people can own the place. Sell all the shares until they are eventually gone, and it becomes theirs, not yours." Founder

Even after a turnover event, many investors—and even some successor CEOs—want the Founder-CEO to stay with the company in some capacity.

“You can replace an executive, but you can’t replace a founder.”

Once the new CEO has entered the company, the deposed Founder-CEO has to negotiate a new role. For the company’s new CEO, the continuing involvement of the Founder-CEO can introduce some very different “taking charge” challenges than when the previous CEO does not stay with the company. 

On-board the successor

“Work with the board as you develop into the work. Partner with staff who are strong in areas where you are weak. Be authentic and remember it is about the strength of organization, not about you looking good."

The most neglected step when it comes to succession planning is preparing for what happens after the successor is named. Making succession a sink-or-swim shock is simply too risky to endure. There is no such thing as a "ready now" candidate. Anyone named as a successor has learning to do and mistakes to recover from.

Part of the planning process must be to take advantage of the time between the announcement and the acceptance of the top job so that the leadership can address as many needs as possible. Existing staff or board members may introduce the newcomer to financial investors and other key people.

Public relations should also be considered to announce the appointment.

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Donna Rae Scheffert

809 Mayflower Ct.

Northfield, MN 55057

Let me assist you and your organization. Call me at 612.360.4484

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