When Gaps in Succession Planning Turn into Chasms

09/21/2011 10.43 EST

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When we are asked to conduct a search, more often than not, it is the result of a gap in a succession plan. Often, the situation is inescapable and, hopefully, due to the fact that our client’s growth is outstripping their ability to fill all of the gaps in the organizational chart through its own talent pool.  Recently, however, we are seeing more systemic problems – ones that are hindering the development of talented pre-executives into senior leaders capable of managing a set of broad strategic responsibilities.   Much can be attributed to the downturn in the economy as organizations are asking all employees to take on more responsibility in order to drive down costs.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the senior executive ranks where spans of control have grown significantly.  A byproduct of this drive for efficiency is that the gaps in responsibility between management levels are growing so wide that it becomes more and more challenging to promote from within.    The problem is exacerbated by the fact that when lower levels of management are asked to do more, they generally assume responsibility for more of the work of their subordinates.  On the other hand, when senior executives are asked to do more, it is related to the tasks of their peers.  Thus, the mid-manager is doing more with less by becoming more tactical and hands-on, while his or her senior-level boss is doing more with less by going broader and more strategic;...