By Retired Lieutenant
General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah
….continues from last week
I KNOW it works differently in politics, but in an effective military structures, there is a system of first come first move unless if there is no capability on those who came first. In the event where those who came first failed to move, in some cases, they are forced into retirements. That move helps to inforce, instil, ensure respect and maintain discipline of purpose in the Defence Forces. Those military traditions and cultures create an environment of succession. The same is true, while those traditions and cultures are applicable within the structures of Defence Forces; succession planning is the linchpin that can be applicable across the spectrums of organisations and businesses if they are to succeed.
Based on those premises as illustrated above, it is now important to look into the importance and principles of succession planning. Successful organisations and businesses are those that have adopted and adhered to the set principles, traditions and cultures of succession planning.
History taught us that, the public sector in most cases has failed to put in place succession planning. That is so because there are people when at the apex of the organisation, they develop a phobia of not willing to share or/and hand over power to others. Those are people with a scarcity mentality. Scarcity mentality is when people develop feelings that should they share or/and handover power, they believe that something shall be taken away from them. There is need that people in the public sector must develop the concept of abundant mentality. Abundant mentality is when people who are ready to share and even pass the torch to others. They do so knowingly that should they handover power procedurally, that will help the organisation to move forward as there shall be nothing taken away from them. People with abundant mentality enjoy respect even after they have left the scene.
On these premises, succession planning is an essential and indispensable instrument and strategy for harnessing the activities of any organisation. It is the process where future and potential successors are identified by looking at some credentials and qualifications as may be dictated by the positions to be occupied. Succession planning is the responsibility of those at the top echelon of the organisation.
It must also be cautioned that succession planning as an effective tool to prepare individuals for high position, must be conducted based on the rooted traditions, cultures, and values and in alignment with the strategy direction of the organisation. The early conducting of succession planning, will help to develop individuals who are being groomed and earmarked to take up the challenge should the time come. The importance of an early succession planning is because succession planning is a journey, not a one-off event.
While the conducting of succession planning is so important, there are a number of aspects to consider as they will be the driving forces to propel the process towards the end on how it will be concluded. Avoiding haphazard ways in the process of succession planning is critical. Professionalism, tradition, culture, value and the organisational strategy must be the yardsticks that are adhered to during the process of succession planning.
There are some set principles, benchmarks and milestones to follow when conducting succession planning. First, it is imperative to decide as to why succession planning is needed and when. There are mistakes made in real life, when succession planning was made available before a decision was taken whether there was need for succession. Second, identify the qualities that must be embedded in a candidate. Severe mistakes can also be made by identifying a candidate before identifying the needed qualities. It is thus critical and important that, those two steps must be followed to the letter before one can embark upon the third step. The third step is where a potential candidate is identified. The approval of the succession planning and identification of a potential candidate must then be followed by intensive preparations with regard to training and understudying.
From the foregoing, succession planning is a deliberate and systematic management tool once applied with caution, will help the organisation to ensure its continuity without a break. There are situations after the retirement of the head of an organisation; the organisation is plugged into chaos and serious morass to the extent that the incoming head will have to start all over again. Should such a situation happen, it may take some years again before the organisation is back to the position where it was when the previous incumbent left.
That will be termed as marking time as we say in the military. Marking time is a situation where a soldier makes steps while standing at the same spot. From a distance, one may think the soldier is on the move just to realise when you get closer that he/she is at one spot only. Organisations and businesses do not need marking time. Rather, literally move forward if they are to achieve set strategic goals and objectives. The panacea to succession planning is for the strategic leadership and management to make it an organisational culture and tradition.
Successful organisations for centuries now have made provisions in their strategic plans to avail succession planning for their organisations. Yet there are still some organisations that are failing to do so in the 21st century. There are many leaders in the 21st century who do not pay attention to succession planning just to realise after they leave the scene that, all their contributions have gone in vain as there might be nobody who is capable to take the organisation into the future.
Succession planning must not be seen as a prestige. Succession planning is a strategic process aiming at complementing strategic planning, strategic vision and mission of an organisation. We are today leaving in an ever changing environment that demands those who are able to think outside the box and capable of projecting their dreams into the future. The world of today is for those who are proactive as opposed to those who are reactive. The demand to be proactive is equally important for the success of both public and private sectors while reverting to reaction posture shall have detrimental effect to the organisation and business alike. Succession planning is extremely important but sometimes it is overlooked just to realise it when there is just little reaction time left.
The former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain once considered the Iron Lady came face-to-face with this reality when she was forced from office. When it became clear she must relinquish her office, she had a fall-back strategy and nominated John Major as her successor whom she believed was the man to ensure and safeguard her legacy and take their policies forward. Whether nominating her successor was spontaneous or it was a planned move, the bottom line is, succession planning is something organisations cannot do without.
In a nutshell, choosing, earmarking and nurturing potential candidates for the right positions at the right time is therefore sine qua non. Leadership and management are the yardsticks to determine the quality and future survival of any organisation or business. Strategic leadership and management are panaceas that shall help to propel any organisation or business forward and be able to achieve set perennial gaols and objectives. Above all, succession planning is key to ensuring the survival and continuity of any organisation and business. The opposite, overlooking succession planning shall derelict what a leader has done for years.
Lieutenant General (rtd) Denga Ndaitwah is former Chief of the Defence Force, Part Time Lecturer at UNAM, Head of Department and Senior Lecturer at IUM
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