Most people would never think of beginning a building without a blueprint or some kind of schematic drawing. Succession plans and business cultures, however, are often viewed in a very different light. Many people consider themselves experts in succession success and business cultures, even though their frame of reference is limited to their personal experience with a single organization.

Here is a basic blueprint that works well for any industry. The plans cover three areas: alignment; systems; and performance. These three areas are usually necessary for high levels of business performance and succession success. To make sure they work seamlessly, follow these steps:

  1. Clarify your mission or purpose, vision, and values. Clear communications take only a few words, not paragraphs and pages, so keep the message simple and consistent. These three statements form the basis for the CAD (Choices and Decisions) System that will become important to your overall business performance.

  2. Form a strategic plan that includes an honest assessment of strengths and opportunities, limitations and threats, and aligns business strategies with personal and business values. Many organizations confuse business strategies with values. Strategies reflect business and economic conditions – they are relative. Values are immutable – they are absolute. If you do not have an absolute value system, your CAD System (Choices and Decisions) will lack consistency and predictability, and, therefore, credibility.

  3. Identify the technical, administrative, and interpersonal skill sets required for people to be successful within your organization. Insist on performance that complements Culture and Results. Lack of balance between those two facets results in what a colleague refers to as “poisoned performance.”

  4. Assess the state of your culture or business environment. Pay particular attention to how people (employees in this case) are responding to leadership, communications, growth opportunities, working conditions, and compensation. Pay the most attention to how they view the connection between mission, vision, and values and the way they are expected to work on a day-to-day basis.

  5. Create annual operating plans that are fully integrated with the strategic plan. To avoid turf wars, make sure your management staff knows that the strategic plan trumps departmental/unit operating plans. If you must use unilateral power to make sure that happens, feel free to do so.

  6. Measure performance, provide timely feedback, and reward appropriate results. Remember that rewarded behavior is repeated behavior. Create compensation systems that allow for “windfall” and “bust” circumstances. Stay far away from systems that will leave you regretting “how well” some of your employees may do when circumstances you never envisioned occurring actually take place. If employee success makes you feel angry or abused, go back to Step 1 and check out your value system.

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