How Succession Planning Can Really Work Well
A work-levels-based approach to understanding organizational needs is critical. Whilst some organizations define job and work level requirements through the analysis of core competencies, this approach falls drastically short of what is necessary.
In order to create a meaningful succession plan, we first have to define accurately the work roles in the organization at each level and the capability required to perform the work well. ‘Capability’ includes knowledge and competencies, of course, but also the critical success factor of cognitive capability.
The research of Dr Elliott Jaques and others identified the numbers of levels of work required in organizations by measuring the increasing levels of work complexity and the corresponding levels of cognitive capability required at each level. So, a direct match can be established to answer the eternal question: ‘Is this person ready to cope with the challenges of this role?’
The Requisite Organization Management Model1 created by Jaques also gives managers a robust framework within which to identify employees’ current and future potential capability. Whilst recognizing that skilled knowledge, experience and motivation are all essential to optimal job performance and employee satisfaction, Jaques discovered the critical role played by cognitive capability – he called it Complexity of Information Processing – in handling the complexity of problems to be solved in a work role.
Here is another stunning revelation: Jaques’ research into human capability also discovered that our cognitive capability matures at a measurable and predictable rate throughout our lives, and may still be maturing even when we reach normal retirement age. People’s cognitive capabilities have been found to mature at different rates and speeds.
When organizations use the Requisite Organization framework for succession planning, they are able to identify not only who is capable of performing which role now, but also, based on the measurable predictions of their cognitive capability maturation, for which roles they have future potential capability. Therefore, a highly reliable picture can be created easily to identify where future capability overlaps and gaps may occur. This enables managers to make cost-effective decisions about hiring, promotion and training.
Please continue on page 3 for more on Succession Planning: Organizational Strengths and Weaknesses.