Amy Kates
Leadership Excellence, 2008

The most powerful element in a succession plan is the set of experiences that develop managers on the job. Nothing prepares someone to take on a leadership role better than a stretch assignment with the right support and feedback. Ideally, experiences vary by scale (size of responsibility), scope (type of skills or knowledge needed), geography, and stage of the business (turnaround, growth, or startup). And, they’re complemented by the conceptual frameworks, coaching, and skill building that turn experience into applied wisdom. Such development builds executives who can take on new challenges in various contexts.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to prepare their managers to grow into executives with broad responsibility. Many companies face a talent gap at their senior ranks because leaders are designing their organizations – and key roles – to get today’s work done, but not with an eye to growing leaders. They are missing a chance to bring talent management, succession planning, and organization design efforts together into one system.

Companies can’t just compete on being a low-cost provider, or by creating products with cutting-edge features. They must have excellent products distributed through multiple channels, and products reconfigured in faster ways to meet changing customer needs. They must do this cost effectively and often across geographic borders. The result is fewer organizations structured into clear product divisions staffed by strong general managers with end-to-end responsibility for business results.

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