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Succession Planning: How to ensure succession planning efforts actually work in organizations

ImpactNexus: Leading with Impact is a blog series on strategic practices in leadership

Succession planning sign

By Dr. Sai Raghav

Succession planning is not a new phenomenon, but this trend has gained considerable momentum in recent times. It is a proactive strategy formulated by organizational leaders to ensure continuity of leadership effectiveness, purpose, organizational direction, and sustained organizational success by identifying and grooming individuals with a potential for upward mobility (Jackson & Dunn-Jensen, 2021). However, due to increased work demands, lack of effective planning, and limited resources this endeavor often gets sidelined or is poorly implemented. To maximize the chances of success and minimize the challenges associated with succession planning initiatives in today’s organizations several key strategies can be employed, and each is briefly outlined in this blog post.

1. Early Initiation

Rather than waiting for announcements of retirement and job transfers, efforts should be directed towards early identification of such potential vacancies. Leadership gaps are capable of disrupting the organizational momentum and can increase the workload of other leaders. The risks associated with such sudden departures could significantly affect the workflow and the company’s profitability (Ritchie, 2020; Jackson & Dunn-Jensen, 2021). Early identification enables senior leaders to optimally utilize available resources and simultaneously place emphasis on the training and development of potential successors.

2. Alignment with the Vision, Mission, and Objectives (VMO's)  

An effective succession plan is one that aligns with the organization’s VMOs (Mihaylov & Zurbruegg, 2021). Ideally, the future leaders are expected to carry forward the torch, and they are better equipped to do so when the resource-coordinating skills and competencies they possess are in line with the organization’s strategic objectives. To ensure seamless transition it is recommended that leaders place heightened emphasis on refining the succession plan of their organization to closely align with the VMOs.

Future leaders are expected to carry forward the torch

Dr. Sai Raghav

Future leaders are expected to carry forward the torch

3. Cultivate a Talent Pipeline

Building a strong talent pipeline is pivotal to organizational success. Leaders across the various levels of the organization must be on the constant lookout for high potential candidates and be willing to groom them for positions of higher responsibility. This not only bolsters levels of employee motivation and performance, but also minimizes the employees’ propensity to leave the company primarily because they feel valued, supported, and invested. At my current organization (Costco Wholesale), there is considerable emphasis on programs such as manger-in-training and temporary supervisory assignments because Costco Wholesale’s leaders only promote from within thereby eliminating the risk of knowledge spillover (Costco Wholesale, personal communication, March 17, 2024).

4. Promote a Learning Culture

History has perpetually taught us that one stops to evolve when one stops learning, and since there is increased pressure to deliver results in today’s intensely competitive business environment it is important to remain in a state of constant improvement. By identifying the necessary skills, competencies, and leadership qualities necessary to drive innovation and organizational growth senior leaders are better able to implement training and mentorship programs aimed at equipping the incoming leaders with the necessary tools to succeed. However, in order for the potential leaders to take advantage of the learning opportunities it is crucial that the organization’s leaders eliminate the barriers of communication and simultaneously maximize the levels of transparency. This, in turn, fosters a culture conducive of growth, nurtures continuous learning, and facilitates success.

5. Periodic Review of the Plans

Conducting periodic review of the succession plans in place is of fundamental importance because the external environment, which is constantly changing, significantly impacts the internal environment. In order for the succession plans to be effective and successful the leaders responsible should pay ongoing attention to the changing circumstances and update the plans (Gubler et al., 2020). The iterative process of revisiting succession plans also allows the organizational leaders to not only minimize inconsistencies and inefficiencies, but also enables them to capitalize on emerging opportunities for business growth and maintain outstanding agility.


Conclusively, effective implementation of succession planning initiatives is reliant on the execution of key strategies such as early initiation, alignment with the VMOs, talent pipeline development, cultivating a learning culture, and periodic review of the plans. This significantly paves the way for the senior leaders to advance the organizational agenda, and simultaneously enhance the chances of organizational success.


Costco Wholesale. (Personal communication, March 17, 2024).

Gubler, T., Arnold, J., & Coombs, C. (2020). Succession Planning for Organizational Resilience: A Review and Synthesis of Current Research. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 27(1), 50–66.

Jackson, S. E., & Dunn-Jensen, L. M. (2021). Succession Planning: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature. In R. A. Johnson & R. S. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational Behavior Management (pp. 187–209). Routledge.

Mihaylov, G., & Zurbruegg, R. (2021). Succession Planning: A Review of Current Research and Future Directions. Journal of Business Research, 129, 121–136.

Ritchie, B. (2020). Succession Planning in the 21st Century: A Systematic Review of Current Research and Directions for the Future. Human Resource Development Review, 19(4), 418–442.



Dr. Sai Raghav


Dr. Raghav is an accomplished academic and scholar holding degrees in areas such as a Doctorate in Management (Organizational Leadership) from the University of Phoenix, an MS in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in Project Management from Northcentral University, an MBA with a specialization in Strategic Management from the Swiss Management Center, Switzerland, and a B.S. in Physiotherapy from N.T.R. University of Health Sciences, India. He is a presidential member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and a Fellow in Residence for the Center for Leadership Studies and Organizational Research.