Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Succession Planning

Thanks, Eric, for pointing me to Bob Filipczak's horrendous post about the crappy leaders that all of us Gen Xers are turning out to be(!). That one sets me off. It's interesting, too, because the book that Filipczak wrote (with Raines and Zemke), Generations At Work, is one that I like. I'll have to go back and see if what they wrote about Generation X fits with what he's saying now, because I find his generalizations to be a bit off (and in the Blog post, he doesn't particularly cite data or sources for his conclusions). And while I can tell I have a full-fledged rant coming together inside me about that post, I'm going to hold off and write about just one of the topics he mentioned: succession planning.

He said it's the hot topic right now, citing a conversation he had with a senior military official who is dealing with a major shortage of middle manager level personnel. We knew this was coming--Generation X is a small generation, much smaller than the Boomers. So if we try to fill all of those mid-level manager slots that Boomers filled with Xers, we'll fall short.

Filipczak's advice? Suck it up. Stay in your job longer than two years, embrace office politics even though it sucks, and work on our people skills (apparently we're bad at that and we don't have networks).

I tend to disagree with his generalizations about Xers, but even if he has data to back them up, I'm most upset with his conclusion about what to do next. He's still telling us how to be more like Baby Boomers. That WE have to change in order to make the current structure work. He says that we have a crisis because we have all these middle management positions to fill and not enough people. Isn't that backwards? We have tons and tons of people. Has it occurred to Filipczak that the answer might be MORE in restructuring the way the work gets done, as opposed to making Xers change the way they do things to fit the structure the Boomers created?

It's easier to think of succession planning as filling slots, and as long as the population is growing, that works. But when things shift, so must our thinking. Succession planning is really just ongoing leadership adaptation. How do we need to change the capacity within our systems to shape the future, given the demographic make up of our system? The demographic and generational shifts that are happening right now are real, and they pose a serious challenge to leadership and to management, but I think we'll do better by actually innovating management (see Gary Hamel), rather than sending all the Xers back to charm school so they can be "proper" middle managers like their Boomer predecessors.

Okay, I guess that was a bit of a rant.


Joe Rominiecki said...

Sounds like a pretty simple management principle that I've heard before: don't try to force your personal management style on your employee; rather, adapt your management style to that employee's personality in order to get the best results out of him or her.

What you're saying above is just a macro version of this. Don't force the people into the current management mold; rather, change the mold to best fit the people.

Lisa Junker said...

To tag onto what Joe said, I would also say that we should feel free to change the org chart to fit the people. Especially when someone's been at an organization a long time, they tend to accumulate additional projects and responsibilities like barnacles. When that person leaves, you may not be able to find another person who fits those barnacles well. If we give ourselves the freedom to split jobs up, recombine them, spread responsibilities around and change job descriptions, we can find the best people and fit the jobs to them. (And maybe not worry so much about whether we have enough Gen Xers to fit all of the jobs currently held by older generations. Maybe those jobs can be combined, split up, or even [horrors!] eliminated in some cases.)

Alex said...

When management is engaged in succession planning, an org chart can be very useful for highlighting and selecting suitable successors for upper management positions. Most positions require special skill sets and qualifications in order for the company to continue and transition smoothly with the successor in place. An org chart can include relevant skills, anticipated retirement dates and other pertinent information useful during succession planning. If an unexpected vacancy occurs, having a considered succession plan within the org chart can minimize the disruption on the organization. There is a automatic program for succession planning - OrgPlus Enterprise. It available there: http://www.orgplus.com/products/orgplus-enterprise

vishnuprasath said...

When you have acquired new skills, it is important to know where to find job openings to put them to work.

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