Succession planning is not simply replacement planning. Replacement planning suggests that an organisation simply identifies one or two potential individuals who can work as a backup, for a temporary period, in a role, until someone appropriate is found. Replacement planning assumes that the organisational structure will remain unchanged over time. Succession planning, in contrast, focuses on developing people rather than merely naming them as replacements. Succession planning should be highly strategic. Consider the plan as long-term organisational change.

Below are 10 steps to follow in order to create and maintain a systematic succession plan.

  • Ensure buy-in

Before implementing any change, ensure that your succession plan is supported by those individuals who are responsible for succession planning. A lack of buy-in will ultimately lead to failure.

  • Develop a precise definitions of and agreement about key concepts

Make sure that key concepts such as potential and performance are understood and agreed upon so that during the process, the same language can be spoken without confusion.

  • Develop a Competency Framework

A Competency Framework is a key tool that defines the knowledge, skills, and attributes needed for people within an organisation. Each individual role will have its own set of competencies needed to perform the job effectively. Having this in place, will make the assessment of each individual against certain criteria much easier and objective.

  • Multi-Rater Assessment

Get individualised ratings of individuals from many different sources for a holistic view of an individual’s strengths and areas for development. Do not simply depend on one manager’s perspective. This is too prone to bias.

  • Put a strategic Performance Management process into place

If your organisation has comprehensive Performance Management system is place, it allows for more accurate data analytics to be used during strategic talent reviews.

  • Do not only focus on performance

Too often, organisations solely use past performance data. The problem with this is that individuals might be able to perform well in other roles, and this is not considered. So too may past performance be due to external factors that are irrelevant to a new role. Thus assessing potential is hugely advantageous. Performance focuses on the past; potential focuses on the future.

  • Implement an organisational learning plan

Once potential and performance is assessed, it is not beneficial to only train and develop staff once they have been identified as potential successors. Rather view all staff as potential successors. Continual development will provide for a more strategic long-term plan and will increase an organisation’s talent pool in the process. One way of achieving this is making Personal Development Plans compulsory for each individual. However, always remember to continually monitor progress.

  • Know your talent pools

A common and effective way of differentiating talent is to use a tool such as the Nine-box Talent Grid. Once your talent is visible it is much easier to make effective decisions. One thing to note however is to continually reassess the talent pool for changes or additions.

  • Create an accountability framework

It is key that individuals know what they are accountable for, be it the actual succession planning process, identifying talent or developing talent. This will create a system that is more efficient with each individual having clear objectives.

  • Evaluate results

Always ensure the results of your succession planning are understood and documented. Knowing potential downfalls of your plan will enable clear changes to be made in the future.

Janko A. Kotzé
Organisational Psychologist
M: +27 (0)83 233 7147

About the author

Janko is an Industrial and Organisational (IO) Psychologist and holds a Master’s Degree in IO Psychology at Unisa (Cum Laude). He has extensive consulting experience and has designed and delivered Talent Management solutions to over 30 clients across various industries.

He is the Founder and Director of Human Interest Consulting. A boutique talent management consulting firm that partners with organisations to create high-performing, integrated Talent Ecosystems that allow people to prosper. He is a skilled people strategist and facilitator and likes to embed new strategies through individual and group coaching engagements.

Janko has written numerous articles and is a sought after conference speaker. He has represented South Africa in the 110m hurdles at Youth, Junior and Senior National level and has aided international athletes and sport teams in the art of Mental Excellence.

Janko’s qualifications include a BCom Sport Management, BCom Hons Industrial Psychology, Certificate in Marketing & Customer Centricity (Cum Laude) and an Intensive Coaching Training Accreditation (Cum Laude). He is a member of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychologists of South Africa (SIOPSA), Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).

Lara Bloch
Intern Organisational Psychologist

About the author

Lara holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand. Lara’s qualifications include a BA (Psychology & Linguistics) (Cum Laude), in which she received a University Council Member Scholarship, eight Certificates of First Class and two Certificates of Merit, a BA Honours Psychology (Cum Laude), in which she received the Postgraduate Honours Merit Award, a BA Honours Industrial/Organisational Psychology (Cum Laude), in which she received a Certificate of First Class for her Research titled “Absenteeism and presenteeism as proxies of productivity change pre and post-occupancy in a Green building in South Africa”. For her Master’s year in Industrial/Organisational Psychology she received the Postgraduate Masters Merit Award. She also received the National Research Foundation’s Innovation Masters Scholarship for her research titled “Impact of indoor plants on work engagement and well-being perceptions”, which is awarded to those at the frontier of knowledge in innovation areas, as well as for academic merit.

Lara is a qualified Psychometrist and registered with the Health Professional Council of South Africa, after completing her degree at the University of Johannesburg. She is accredited in using the following psychometric assessments: 16PF, Giotto Integrity Test, the Work-related Risk and Integrity Scale (WRISc), MBTI and the Saville WAVE Assessment. Lara was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2011, which recognises the Top 15% of students per field of study for outstanding academic performance. Lara holds the following certificates: Divorce and Family Mediation, Law for Mediators and Psychology for Lawyers. Lara is part of the Johannesburg’s Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology of South Africa (SIOPSA) branch committee.

Lara prides herself in ensuring her work is completed efficiently with careful attention to detail, to produce the highest quality output. Lara is able to tackle complex situations with consistency and perseverance. She will take initiative, in order to learn and grow professionally. Lara lives by the following quote, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”.


Barnett, R., & Davis, S. (2008). Creating Greater Success in Succession Planning. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 10(5), 721-739.

BCMS. (2016). Succession Planning and Exit Strategy: How to safeguard the future of your business. Retrieved from

Gallant, M. (2013). How Does Succession Planning Differ from Replacement Planning? Retrieved from

Rothwell, W.J. (2017). Ten Key Steps to Effective Succession Planning. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/LaraBloch/Downloads/10-key-steps-to-effective-succession-planning.pdf

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