A Lesson from RIM's Succession Plan

by Saba Software | Posted | Leadership

A Lesson from RIM\'s Succession Plan

Along with thousands of other industry watchers, we read the news of Research In Motion's planned leadership change with great interest last week.

The announcement that the Blackberry maker's co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie were stepping down from their shared top post was not only interesting because of what it did to the stock volume and value, or the buzz it generated, but also from the perspective of a strong, internally groomed successor being named.

While we advocate broad-based talent pool succession planning across many groups and positions within a company, not just for executive, the naming of Thorsten Heins as the new RIM president and CEO is an excellent case in point for strong succession planning programs.

Given Heins' previous post as COO for the mobile device manufacturer, it's fairly obvious that he had been developed for this top position as part of a concerted and deliberate succession process.

The company's press release states he "joined RIM from Siemens Communications Group in December 2007, and started as Senior Vice President for Hardware Engineering. He was appointed Chief Operating Officer for Product and Sales in August 2011."

That's some broadbased cross-functional internal experience and development - engineering, operations, product and sales - and an obvious, intentional grooming of RIM's future leader from most any perspective. Which is a great thing! Succession isn't meant to be a reactive approach to a change in key positions.

And it's not meant to simply be a replacement plan on an org chart either. Ideally it is a well thought program that has focused on the development of the organization's highest potentials to succeed in a variety of roles as they are required based on strong internal bench strength.

Now take this tech giant's example and scale it to thinking about your own organization. Are your organization's high potentials identified and plotted in a 9 box? Do you know based on a talent assessment who is ready for their next assignment and when? Do you have some pretty important or pivotal roles that you believe need a strong talent pipeline in order for your company to maintain its competitive edge? And do you have development programs identified mapped to key competencies required to succeed in each of these roles?

Sounds like a lot of questions, which might seem to add up to a daunting task. But that's not the case at all. Succession planning can be effectively implemented in three simple phases.

Phase 1: Understand Your Workforce Potential and Areas of Retention Risk

In this phase you'd recognize and classify those high-potential employees, the ones who might be flight risks, and departments or positions that don't have solid bench-strength, so that you can have your managers and leaders make recommendations for talent pool membership.

Phase 2: Develop Internal Talent Pools

Again we're talking about preparation for succession across all departments and levels within your company. During this phase the talent pools get defined and the competency requirements for all key areas are outlined as well. Those hi-pos are assessed on those critical competencies and then based on development requirements are assigned to various talent pools. Talent assessments to track improvements and progress, and to identify any gaps are continually conducted during this phase.

Phase 3: Recruit from Within

Now comes the fun, and the reward of the activity. As openings become available. you'll be able to readily identify successor candidates based on a much larger pool of employees who have been developed to step in.

We're pretty passionate about succession planning based on this best practices approach. Learn more about how we support this type of program with our award winning succession planning solution, and chime in with your thoughts on building bench strength from inside your own companies!

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