Starting a Systematic Program 137
because top managers are not of one mind about what they want. And, of course, if
they do not agree on what they want, you cannot possibly satisfy them.
Novices at SP&M programs usually want to start at the top, beginning with the
CEO and senior leaders. Some organizations stop there. Others extend it farther down
on the organization chart in time. A top-down approach is the riskiest because an
SP&M program needs logistical support—HR staff with the credibility and expertise
to coordinate efforts and an HR information system (HRIS) that is robust enough to
support data gathering and record keeping—especially as a program is extended to
the relatively large numbers of middle managers and frontline managers. But there
are alternatives to starting at the top.
One is to start with a hot spot, a place ‘‘in pain.’’ That could be a division, a
department, or a work unit that is especially important to the business (as engineering
is to manufacturing) and that is experiencing higher-than-desired turnover, is losing
high potentials, or is expecting a higher percentage of people eligible for retirement
than other divisions or departments. Starting with one place usually allows pilot-
testing and can enjoy the support of managers in that area because it deals with a
recognized problem, either currently or in the future.
A second alternative is to start with solving the problem of knowledge transfer—
that is, technical succession planning—rather than focusing on management succes-
sion planning. That will usually appeal more to CEOs who come from technical areas,
such as engineering.
A third option is to start with solving the problem of passing on social contacts—
that is, social relationship succession planning—rather than focusing on management
or technical areas. That will appeal to certain groups, such as sales and marketing, in
which personal relationships are sometimes key to getting business results.
There are other options, of course. It all boils down to what problems the organi-
zation is experiencing that can be best solved by an SP&M program and how much
long-term agreement that can be gained from decision makers to implement such a
program. Lacking business needs or clarity of goals, you will ﬁnd it difﬁcult to launch
and sustain an SP&M program.
Conducting a Risk Analysis and Building
a Commitment to Change
Where do an organization’s leaders begin in conducting a risk analysis or in building
a commitment to change? These are, of course, related questions.
A risk analysis is simply an assessment of what level of risk an organization faces
owing to the loss of key people. (Key people exist at all levels and not just at the top.)
The risk analysis is conducted in one of several ways. An example has been mentioned
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