What Is Succession Planning
and Management?
Six Ministudies:
Can You Solve These Succession Problems?
How is your organization handling succession planning and management (SP&M)?
Read the following vignettes and, on a separate sheet, describe how your organization
would solve the problem presented in each. If you can offer an effective solution to
all the problems in the vignettes, then your organization may already have an effective
SP&M program in place; if not, your organization may have an urgent need to devote
more attention to succession issues.
Vignette 1
An airplane crashes in the desert, killing all on board. Among the passengers are
several top managers of Acme Engineering, a successful consulting firm. When the
vice president of human resources at Acme is summoned to the phone to receive the
news, she gasps, turns pale, looks blankly at her secretary, and breathlessly voices the
first question that enters her mind: ‘‘Now who’s in charge?’’
Vignette 2
On the way to a business meeting in Bogota, Colombia, the CEO of Normal Fixtures
(a maker of ceramic bathroom fixtures) is seized and held for ransom by freedom
fighters. They demand U.S. $1 million within 72 hours, or they will kill him. Members
of the corporate board are beside themselves with concern.
American Management Association
4 Background Information About Succession Planning and Management
Vignette 3
Georgina Myers, supervisor of a key assembly line, has just called in sick after two
years of perfect attendance. She personally handles all purchasing and production
scheduling in the small plant, as well as overseeing the assembly line. The production
manager, Mary Rawlings, does not know how the plant will function in the absence
of this key employee, who carries in her head essential and proprietary knowledge of
production operations. She is sure that production will be lost today because Georgina
has no trained backup.
Vignette 4
Marietta Diaz was not promoted to supervisor. She is convinced that she is a victim
of racial and sexual discrimination. Her manager, Wilson Smith, assures her that that
is not the case. He explains his reason to her: ‘‘You just don’t have the skills and
experience to do the work. Gordon Hague, who was promoted, already possesses
those skills. The decision was based strictly on individual merit and supervisory job
requirements.’’ But Marietta remains troubled. How, she wonders, could Gordon
have acquired those skills in his previous nonsupervisory job?
Vignette 5
Morton Wile is about to retire as CEO of Multiplex Systems. For several years he has
been grooming L. Carson Adams as his successor. Adams has held the posts of execu-
tive vice president and chief operating officer, and his performance has been exem-
plary in those positions. Wile has long been convinced that Adams will make an
excellent CEO. But, as his retirement date approaches, Wile has recently been hearing
questions about his choice. Several division vice presidents and members of the board
of directors have asked him privately how wise it is to allow Adams to take over, since
(it is whispered) he has had a long-term, high-profile extramarital affair with his
secretary and is rumored to be an alcoholic. How, they wonder, can he be chosen to
assume the top leadership position when he is burdened with such personal baggage?
Wile is loathe to talk to Adams about these matters because he does not want to
police anyone’s personal life. But he is sufficiently troubled to think about initiating
an executive search for a CEO candidate from outside the company.
Vignette 6
Linda Childress is general manager of a large consumer products plant in the Mid-
west. She has helped her plant weather many storms. The first was a corporate-
sponsored voluntary early retirement program, which began eight years ago. In that
American Management Association

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