Succession Planning: Definition, Procedure and Examples (Apple and IBM)

Definition of Succession  Planning

Succession planning is the development of the talent pipeline in an organization so that critical roles can be quickly filled up once they are vacant.

It is a long-term endeavor as it prepares potential candidates to fill executive and leadership roles in the future. Because an organization’s leadership is critical to its effectiveness, succession planning is always necessary. The exit of an organization leader or chief decision-maker may occur suddenly.  A succession plan aids an organization in training and equipping those who have the potential to fill prominent roles in an organization beforehand.

A succession plan is usually part of every organization’s strategic vision. Succession planning is not only about the replacement of an organization’s CEO, but also the replacement of top-level managers and executives in the C-suite.

The board of directors is involved in the process of planning the succession of a CEO. When it comes to other levels of management or leaders in the organization, they are, however, not really necessary.

To ensure smooth transitions, it’s critical that organizations identify information, critical job skills, networks, and organizational practices that can be passed down to the next crop of workers as early as possible.

Key Takeaways 

  • Succession planning is a preparatory process that involves training and equipping those who will occupy key roles in an organization in the event that the CEO leaves his position unexpectedly or is retiring. 
  • An organization’s continuity is ensured by succession planning, which lays the stage for smooth transitions.
  • Finding the right talent to fill critical positions is usually a herculean task, particularly in industries where talent is scarce. As a result, succession planning must be done ahead of time.

Benefits Of Succession Planning 

  • It saves time and money.
  • It is more difficult to find adequate talents due to a scarcity of talent. Preparing internal personnel for future positions, on the other hand, helps to alleviate the challenge of recruiting a replacement.
  • It increases employees’ motivation. Employees feel valued in organizations that prepare them for future positions inside the company. Motivation, in turn, inspires loyalty from employees because the organization supports their professional development.
  • There will be no shortage of talent in the organization. The process involves the transfer of information, skills, and expertise from senior-level job occupants to mentees.
  • Business operations can continue to run well if a CEO dies or quits the organization unexpectedly because individuals have been appropriately trained to take over the role.

In addition to having a succession plan, it’s crucial that businesses have their one-page business plan established. Take our free course on Building Your One Page Strategic Plan today!


succession planning

Procedure For Succession Planning

1. Identify The Most Important Roles.

The most important roles are the ones that if left vacant, can bring a business to a halt or greatly affect investors’ confidence in the organisation.

2. Identify the Skills and Competencies Needed For Those Roles

The key competencies and skills needed for the roles of the future leaders are identified at this stage. Both the present and future needs that are required for the success of the role are also taken into account. 

3. Identity People With Potential To Fill The Role.

Begin to identify prospective succession candidates for this post once you have gained an awareness of the competencies that are necessary for success. Employees interested in occupying these roles in the future should be identified. This should be done by assessing their capacity and enquiring about their career goals and passions.

Also, determine how well internal applicants can fill the function, particularly once they’ve been trained. If not, the external candidates can fill the position when it becomes vacant.

4. Plan For Transfer of Knowledge 

Ensure that your succession planning and management include methods for learning, training, development, and the transfer of organisation’s knowledge.

Have conversations with senior leaders to know about how they want to share their expertise with prospective successors or mentees. Also, define the learning, training, and development experiences that your organization requires for leadership and other critical positions and areas.

5. Monitor Progress

Evaluate and monitor your succession planning and management efforts by ensuring all major roles and positions have succession plans in place and that key positions are filled quickly. Also, monitor new hires to ensure they are performing optimally.


Succession Planning Best Practices 

  1. The process should be a proactive one. Succession is an unavoidable fact in every organization. You need to plan and prepare ahead. This will enable operations to continue smoothly in the event that the CEO suddenly leaves.
  2. Be specific about the roles to be filled in the succession plans. Whether that includes the CEO and other C-suite executives. Relay information about the employees and roles to be filled in the plan.
  3. Other stakeholders in the organization should be carried along and involved in the process of succession planning. Although the Human resource department oversees the process, they should not handle the process solely.
  4. It may be tempting to select the candidate that is next in rank to fill the role, however, this is not good practice. Other employees whose skills specifically matched the job should also be given a chance.
  5. The core competencies and skills for a job should be clearly defined before training employees to fill the role.
  6. The selected employees should be paired with mentors. Mentorship creates room for the transfer of expertise and know-how. They should also be rotated around jobs so they can familiarize themselves with the daily operations of different departments in the organization.
  7. Managers and those involved in the succession planning process should provide regular feedback. It is necessary to show areas that need improvement.
  8. Every employee should have a plan tailored to their career development needs. This provides the flexibility and motivation that helps employees develop in the area of their specific skill needs.
  9. Allow for a trial period. The trial period allows the potential successor to get firsthand experience in the role he will shortly fill. He takes on the function for a limited time to familiarize himself with the operations and learn how the work roles and different departments functions.

Examples of Succession Planning 


Before Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple in 2011, he had spent years grooming his successor Tim Cook to succeed him. Cook gained CEO-specific skills by working in a variety of operational roles and directly with Jobs. When Jobs was unwell, Cook stepped in to lead day-to-day operations on two occasions.

Jobs launched Apple University in 2008 as a way to deliver a leadership program based on Jobs’ skills and business expertise, in addition to a succession strategy for the top leadership job.


When Virginia Rometty was appointed CEO of IBM, it was regarded as one of the most successful succession plans in corporate history.

She became the company’s first female CEO. Ms. Rometty began her IBM career as a Systems Engineer in 1981 and rose through the ranks to become the head of various departments. Investors, customers, and other IBM stakeholders all reacted positively to the shift.

The smooth transition demonstrated unmistakably that years of planning had gone into it.

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