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Obstacles to Succession Planning

By Gary Perman  |  Posted 08-13-2008 Print

Obstacles to Succession Planning

PermanTech conducted an Internet survey among CIOs, IT leaders, and technology executives in July 2008. The results reflected responses often expressed by employees PermanTech consults. Common characteristics of companies that do not practice succession management include:

• Lack of vision at the top.
• Fear of replacement - a lack of trust within management, fearing they would be replaced if they trained a successor.
• No desire of company leaders to make any changes. 'It has worked this way for twenty years, why change anything?'
• Succession management is time consuming and requires financial resources and proactive planning.
• An emphasis on short-term thinking, including executive focus on company revenue and profits.
• The common misperception that the employee--especially in IT--is "disposable."
• The perception that smaller companies are product-centered rather than people-centered, thus less time and resources are invested and available for succession management.

Erika McDaneld, human resources manager at QL2, a software as a service (SaaS) firm in Seattle, echoes an overwhelming sentiment common of smaller companies: "It's a lack of executive support due to the fact that we're still a small company under 100 employees, as well as the perceived costs. Not only money, but the time involved in succession planning. It's not considered to be an added value at this point."

Nick Murphy, IT director at EthicsPoint, a software development company in Portland, Oregon, believes succession management fails due to misplaced attitudes and fallacious beliefs of management. Murphy thinks that there are two kinds of managers that contribute to the problem: those intimidated by people they perceive as smart (or smarter than them), and thus a threat to their own job, and those that have no clout within their company.

For the intimidated managers, Murphy asks, "When have you ever heard of someone getting fired because they hired someone too great? I try to find people who I perceive as being able to fill in my shoes if anything were to happen to me."

Then there are the managers with no organizational influence. Some companies don't value IT, and therefore don't see the value in training IT workers. And if the manager lacks sufficient clout, there's little hope for putting a successful plan in place.  "If the company is not willing to accept IT, as critical to their business, you will never have succession management," Murphy says.


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