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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Passing the torch: Succession planning

By Carter Hammett
Special to the Toronto Sun

Like the technology which drives it, the marketplace moves at breakneck speed. Businesses caught in the boiling sea of change in their evolutionary cycles require visionary leadership that can respond to the needs of trend-savvy and highly informed consumers (or "pro-sumers" as Business Week recently dubbed them), as they and their customers evolve.
Creative Transition Resources

Yet many companies remain trapped in old models of decision making and leadership styles, and in order for this to change, effective succession planning must be a top priority of chief executive officers (CEOs) says one specialist in change management.

Yasmin Glanville, president of CTR Inc., a Toronto-based consulting firm that develops strategic and marketing strategies for businesses, has guided companies through the change process for more than two decades.

She defines succession planning as the identification of future leaders who can fulfill leadership competency requirements needed to guide and propel a company forward in its next growth stage.

"Organizations need to be two-to-three steps ahead in their thinking," Glanville says. "The current Canadian CEO trained for many years before assuming a leadership role. New leaders have to ask, 'Where is the market headed?' What are the readiness requirements and who in the market place can play that role?"

Business graduates are in key positions to challenge old ways of thinking, yet demand for effective leadership currently outweighs the supply.

Traditionally, companies identified and groomed leaders as they worked their way up the corporate ladder, gradually assuming greater managerial responsibilities as they went along within the company's ranks.

But many potential leaders of today have changed roles several times within different companies, absorbing knowledge and skills that support their values and career goals.

This impacts on succession planning because today's leading CEOs include this as a key ingredient in their future readiness plans in order to gain advantage over others in the competitive marketplace.

Broadening the search net, CEOs often go beyond the walls of their own companies, seeking out performers who match their succession criteria.

Today's company needs to see their growth through multiple lenses, including the willingness to take risks. Sometimes this involves testing several concurrent activities at various stages of development to support strategic intent.

The best and brightest decision makers will move forward, and they are not always found within the realm of the company itself, or within the most established firms.
The Internet abounds with information on succession planning. Here are just a few links to help you get started:
  • Business Development Bank of Canada:
  • Contingency Planning:
  • Creative Transition Resources:
  • Dutch Driver Succession Planning Links:
  • Ivey Business Journal:
  • Management Help Succession Planning Links:

  • Part of the reason for this is because of growth strategies like mergers and acquisitions. Companies are constantly seeking new ideas for growth and development and an ongoing trend is the development of customer-supplier partnerships to accomplish mutual goals.

    There is now far more emphasis on team work, and this is creating a flatter and broader series of business communities that are interconnected. This includes a marketplace that now intersects with various cultures, and businesses need to ensure they are in a position to respond to the needs of diverse and rapidly-changing markets by integrating this into every aspect of the company's future, Glanville says. This includes internal, as well as external marketing.

    She also suggests that benchmarking can create indicators of who might be ready to tackle more senior responsibilities, the skills that are required to achieve this and how that is tied to a company's overall strategy and vision.

    Constant evaluation

    "The company must constantly evaluate its performance success based on results, and its ability to deliver what consumers and business 'investors' value," Glanville says.

    "This includes evaluating the performance of individuals who drive and influence that success. Not all of them are CEOs, of a certain age or discipline.

    Not only established executives should be tapped as potential successors. Recent graduates bring new values and ideas to the marketplace and companies should be prepared to provide learning and job opportunities for them as well.

    "The profile for the new CEO is different today," Glanville explains. "The new corporate leader can be 20-70 years old. Seniors offer the value of wisdom, seasoned by time and experience. They also offer the gift of mentoring new leaders.

    "New graduates bring new ideas, skills and practices. They constantly stay informed and knowledgeable by researching the market to discover their choices. They throw the old text out and ask, 'what's new?' New graduates have something the future needs and companies know that. It's human capital for the future."

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