Succession planning a critical process

Managing your talent is one of the most critical activities an HR professional undertakes. Starting with the workforce plan, the right mix of hires, supporting performance and development, to planning succession which feeds back into your workforce plan. Of these steps succession planning, and workforce planning tend to be overlooked by many organisations.

For many HR professionals one of the challenges is having the time and money to develop and execute these plans. Succession planning can be viewed by senior management as not adding value to the organisation due to the long lead time it takes before the benefits are realised.

The events over the last two weeks should be a rude awakening to all business leaders who have not supported their HR team’s efforts around succession planning.

Which brings me to Apple.

For a long time there has been speculation over Steve Jobs’s health. With even rumours of his death circulating every few months. In September 2008 Steve joked about these reports in a presentation to the Apple faithful.

Steve Jobs Health

Source: AP

Which brings us to 2009. On January 5th Steve Jobs admitted to some minor health issues, caused by a “hormone imbalance”.

Then 2 weeks later, Jobs takes medical leave until June 2009. Sending the technology world into a spin and Apple stocks dive 7%. Now there are talks of investors suing Apple over the health issues. Ouch, costly.

Time for the board to execute the succession plan.

Who will step in for one of the world’s greatest visionaries? Tim Cook. Tim has stepped in before to run Apple, during 2004 when Steve Jobs was recovering from surgery. Or could it be Philip Schiller who delivered the recent MacWorld Keynote? It seems Apple’s board has been thinking about succession. But more needs to be done, most people do not know who they are, a fact highlighted by a recent Knowledge@Wharton article on the issue.

Apple has a strong bench of executives who could succeed Jobs, but major stakeholders, such as investors, customers and partners, don’t know much about them, according to Wharton faculty. The first step in any succession plan may be illustrating that Apple is more than Jobs.

But if Steve does not come back from medical leave is Tim or Philip the visionary leader to replace Steve Jobs? Or is there another solution, like the Microsoft process with replacing Bill Gates. Business guy as CEO, Steve Ballmer and technical guy Ray Ozzie.

Succession planning matters.

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