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Succession Development: Important Steps in the Evolution of Your Business



Sarah A. Scala, M. Ed & OD, ACC
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

What is Succession Development?

Succession development is a key part of the succession process. Designing a 2-5 year development plan for those who have been identified as high performers with high potential (High potentials (Hi-Po)) has been very helpful for my clients and their organizations. The first step is to define the competencies and skills that are most critical for this leader to develop in order to be ready for the next leadership role. If the organization has already defined leadership competencies, this is a wonderful place to start. Once the development areas have been listed, working in partnership with the high potential to identify ways they can close gaps is critical.

Questions for the High Potential’s Boss to Consider First

What can I do on the job through projects or collaboration that will help them build skills? Do they have a mentor that may be able to support them in learning the skills or building strength in these areas? What are the best books that they can read that might help? Can they teach others the skills in order to strengthen it for themselves? Is there a class or program that will help them build proficiency? Designing a development plan that has the primary learning taking place on the job is most effective because it is experiential and real time. Feedback is often immediate. Simply sending someone to classes or having them read books is supportive, but alone these are less effective for the entire plan.  

Gaining Feedback and Insights from the Hi-Po

It is also important to get the high potential’s insights and feedback on how they best learn new things or develop skills. Many organizations have leadership development programs - for emerging talent, high potential leaders, or high potential general managers - where leaders can learn together, share mutual experiences, and gain feedback from the senior leaders of the organization. This experiential approach is highly effective in both skill building and strengthening behaviors.

Performance Improvement Plans for those at Risk

Those that have been evaluated as being a risk to the organization may also require development plans designed specifically for their needs. These plans are often shorter in duration (usually 90 days). These plans are part of a larger intervention designed to to close gaps in skills and behaviors to ensure the person is effective at supporting the needs of the organization and the culture. These development plans typically include weekly meetings with a supervisor or leader, in addition to documentation of progress with human resources.

Solid and Core Performers

It is important to not forget those employees that are the key players that, although they may not become the next executive or CEO, without them our businesses would not be successful. Many client organizations that I have worked with require a minimum of 40 hours of professional development for all employees, including employees that are the key players. Some organizations have adopted a 70-20-10 development plan process that is built into their annual performance review and goal-setting systems. This philosophy means that 70% of learning should be done on the job through projects or assignments, 20% of learning should be done in partnership with a coach or a mentor, and 10% of learning should be done in a formal classroom. Performance Management systems that I have used allow each employee to define their goals for the year and what they want to develop. Using the 70-20-10 model with a performance management system allows employees to track, measure and document the competencies they choose to strengthen.

Final Considerations

It's important to remember that no one is perfect and that everyone always has skills to learn and develop. Whether they're your rockstars, your future executives or CEO, or key players, they are necessary to be the foundation of your business and to help your organization grow and be successful.

What are some ways that your organization has been successful with succession planning and development? 

Need support in designing Succession for your organization? Our approach to custom succession planning and development removes the barriers for executive teams while gaining Board of Director approval to support effective transition and growth. We work with you to provide a map to move forward, identifying who could be promoted for higher roles, anticipating movement or turnover, and for high-potential development.  

Check out our case study on a successful succession project that helped a 100+ year old company move through significant change in their C-Suite.

Questions? Let’s connect. I would love to hear your success stories. Please send them to: or visit

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