Over a cup of coffee’ with Vinda Chitnis

We had lots of questions from our subscribers about the role of succession planning in organizations. We caught up with Vinda Chitnis over a cup of coffee to get his views and perspectives on how these challenges should be managed

 Q. What is succession planning? and why is it relevant for organizations to invest their time and effort on this?

Vinda: In every organization, it is vital to ensure business continuity. Clients value this a lot. Within different functions, it is important that you groom the next level of leadership teams and get them ready to take on higher roles within the organization. This whole process of internal candidate identification and grooming is called succession planning. It is not an easy task to get this done. The first part really understands what are the skillets required in that particular role. Once you know what you need, then you need to watch for several other generic skills like decision making, dealing with pressure and managing conflicts. HR organizations do need to spend a lot of time in identification of this next level of leadership team across functions for key positions. Having decided key competencies and skills for position, internal scanning is done by adopting various techniques for mapping position requirements to probable matching individual. Succession planning process allows organisation to create a motivating atmosphere. Prior experience within organisations helps individual to succeed. Skill gap identified in mapping exercise helps individual as well as organisation to plan skill enhancement programme. It improves talent retention. Continuous grooming for key positions converts organisation into an effective learning and Development Company.

Q. When you identify candidates in your succession path, what parameters do you consider in your evaluation ?

Vinda: Like I said, the most basic are the skill sets required for that particular function. For e.g. if you are trying to identify your next level leadership team under your CFO, then you need skills in managing financial issues. But that is just the very beginning. It is very important to understand how the person responds in pressure situations or how he is able to manage conflict situations. The person’s ability to take his team along and communicate his decisions well is also very important. You do not want an autocratic leader, who will alienate the team. You definitely want someone who will carry everyone along, as your organization scales growth paths. Skills, abilities, knowledge and behaviour for matrix mapping are most important evaluation parameters.

Q. How does succession planning help reduce risks for the organization?

Vinda :Business continuity is a vital parameter, when clients start working with you. They don’t sign up with a company because they have a personal affinity towards a person. They sign up in the belief that the company will stand true to its commitments. When we say the company, it is really represented by the leadership teams. So what happens if the leadership team were to leave or we have any emergency situations due to which the leadership team is not available. In such instances, it is quite likely that the work for the client will suffer due to lack of oversight. Succession planning helps to ensure that the next level of leadership is ready to take on roles, in case there are any of such situations that arise. Succession planning reduces risk by ensuring identification as well as grooming of talent minimizing lead time for the new incumbent to take over. Moreover employee satisfaction arising out of their professional growth for better position enhances retention.  Thus it helps in significantly reducing the risks for the organization.

Q. Are there tools available for succession planning. What are the quantitative and qualitative metrics that an organization can use ?

Vinda :Organisations often use competency mapping to determine required skills for key role vis-sa-vis individual’s capabilities. This exercise throws up skill gap for each individual. Individual development plan are prepared for succession planning as well as individual development.  Some of them use assessment centers to evaluate drive, focus, impact and guide competencies of employees. One can use HR modules within ER P’s like SAP, ORACLE to determine gap analysis.

Q. What have been the challenges you have faced, while you have planned succession planning projects, in your experience.

Vinda  :In many situations Indian organisation are yet to reach a situation where they can handle this change and help an individual to occupy new role in an agreed time-frame. Often you find that new manager is waiting to welcome new incumbent, but prior manager is unable to release the resource. Since resource is burdened with various tasks, he is unable to do justice even for new skill enhancement.  In some cases we have witnessed that individual eventually separates from the organisation. But by and large success rate for succession planning is much higher for matured organisations. One of the German organisation where i worked it was mandatory to release individual in 180 days.

Vinda Chitnis is ex-VP Global HR & ADM at Thirdware Solution. He is an all round HR Professional with experience with corporate and location based  HR across IT & Manufacturing Industry.

He specializes in handling management issues effectively to help drive growth for organizations . He has handled mergers and acquisitions, and is an expert in policy formulation and implementation .

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