Happenings, Insights, Thought Leadership
Succession planning is essential for business continuity when key employees leave an organization. Recognizing this, Texas Farm Credit turned to FCC Services to undertake an extensive succession planning effort for its executive level positions.
“We’ve always known that succession planning was important, but it became even more so after we went through several mergers,” says Mark Miller, Texas Farm Credit CEO. “As a result of the mergers, senior staff had expanded to support our more complex organization, and at the same time we gained the resources to engage an outside consultant to undertake more formal succession planning than we’d been able to do previously.”
FCC Services utilizes a simple but multi-step succession planning process: in the planning phase, organizations first review the organizational strategy, such as achieving growth or fixing problems; next, they define the key roles to include in the process; and third, identify the skills and competencies needed in those roles to achieve the business strategy. Jay Lux, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness Consulting, led the Texas Farm Credit initiative.
“Arriving at these decisions took a lot of discussion, and with a lot of big and varied personalities in the room, Jay was a great facilitator for us,” says Mark. “We started with wide ranging opinions as to what we needed, but by the time we were done, we were all on the same page.”
With the initial discussions complete, the next step in the process is to observe current staff members to identify who could potentially fill key roles and what attributes they may need to develop in order to do so effectively. This is an ongoing process with a formal talent review involving senior staff assessments of the identified employees’ progress every six months. In some cases, learning programs or opportunities are provided to help develop the needed proficiencies.
“Everyone has talents, and succession planning is about figuring out where people are strongest, and putting them in roles that capitalize on those strengths while helping them shore up where they could improve to achieve the career growth they want,” says Jay. “Effective succession planning is about getting the right people in the right positions, at the right time, based on the right information.”
As part of FCC Services’ succession planning methodology, the planning process itself is assessed every six months against defined goals and objectives to determine if any changes are needed and how the effort is progressing.
“Jay is very methodical, and though the process was extensive, it wasn’t onerous,” says Mark. “Sometimes when you get into processes like this, you end up with a lot of theory, but Jay’s approach is very practical.”
Texas Farm Credit’s executive succession planning has been a two-year process, and both Mark and Jay believe the organization is in a strong position to maintain continuity in the event a senior executive leaves the organization.
“We’ve put much more thought into what the needs are for each position, identified gaps between that and what we might currently have available, and have taken proactive steps to fill those gaps,” says Mark. “I feel much better about our long-term leadership continuity, and I believe our board feels the same.”
As the next step in its succession planning, Texas Farm Credit plans to apply the same methodology to the next level in the organization, targeting regional presidents and branch managers. Then, says Mark, “We’ll see where we go from there.”
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