The Succession Imperative   

by Kamran Rizvi

To achieve responsiveness, we need to redesign our businesses by entertaining a completely new paradigm – one that builds trust at every level and empowers people to make decisions that delight customers and consumers. This would be nothing short of revolutionary.

A healthy and vibrant business is one that welcomes change and promotes rapid succession – a planned staff and management turnover. Adopting such a guiding philosophy is essential to build agility and sustainability in any organization.

Do we deliberately encourage our people to grow in their jobs, groom others, and go on to the next level of responsibility – or out to another enterprise? The faster you do this, the stronger your business will become! I know this sounds crazy, but this is the way forward. It presents a real leadership challenge. All successful businesses today are evidence of the fact that someone took a courageous people-decision at some point in time in the past. You are invited to do the same.

Think about it, price and quality were some of the factors that used to determine success in business. But these two elements no longer serve as the key differentiating factors. Today, ‘speed to market’, along with the traditional two, is what gives organizations the competitive edge and the gift of endurance.

To achieve high levels responsiveness at all the key touch points in business, we need to redesign the way we work, lead and manage by entertaining a completely new paradigm – one that builds trust at every level and empowers people to make decisions that delight customers and consumers and also attends to the needs of key stakeholders. This would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Human intelligence has many dimensions. The most fascinating is our ability to make sense of contradictions. Just look at the worldwide web. It is the most centralized system and yet, happens to be the most liberating and empowering. It connects people and facilitates access to valuable information – real-time!


Consider a typical business scenario. In manufacturing, concepts like Just in Time (JIT), as successfully applied for decades by companies like Toyota, the aim is to optimize inputs, work in progress and outputs. Using this as a metaphor to leverage the human factor can do wonders for your organization.

Consider assigning an expiry date for every job position based on the level of complexity and sophistication of the tasks involved. These dates could range from two years to 5-7 years. Such a practice will enable your managers and their staff at every level to know what is expected of them. They will grow their capabilities accordingly. They will also be focused on identifying and grooming their successor/s in good time, and they will plan their move to the next level of responsibility, either in the same function or to a new area altogether, making the transitions seamless.

Conventional human resource management works on three core pillars “Attract, Retain and Grow”. Attract and Grow are plausible. However, an attempt to ‘retain’ talent is a questionable practice. Why should an organization cling to its people? An oft-presented explanation: ‘Because their value lies in what they know and how they perform. It takes a lot of time and money to develop people.’ A rebuttal: ‘But aren’t knowledge and skills transferable?’ Fact: ‘Yes, they are’.

The very act of knowledge sharing, coaching and mentoring throughout the business is the succession imperative.  In complying with the laws of nature, retention of people as a practice ‘blocks’ the flow of progress, energy and leads to stagnation, deterioration and eventually, the demise of any organization.

I encourage managers to embed the ‘GGG’ (Grow, Groom & Get on) model in their corporate culture. ‘GGG’ encourages a healthy flow of people – joining, performing and exiting on a planned basis.

Flow, whether in streams or in blood vessels, is a sign of health. The best expression of CSR is for an organization to provide its community with a constant flow of talented and committed people, who add value through their leadership in an entrepreneurial or employment context.

As we flow into the future; as we evolve and grow, we come to ever newer sets of realizations of what is possible. Our individual and collective awareness of our own potential and that of our business makes us responsible. It is our sense of responsibility that empowers us to venture into domains of human activity where few have dared before.

A few smart business leaders have begun to shape their organizations on the ‘GGG’ principle, to unlock the hidden competitive edge. The art lies in unleashing human energy and channelizing it to achieve not only the corporate vision, but also their own. This can be done by tapping into aspirations of people working with you and getting them to engage in meaningful conversations throughout the business on a regular basis.

Our challenge, in the face of countless uncertainties in our environment, lies is making rapid succession a habit in our business by embedding ‘GGG’. According to this paradigm, individuals would join an organization for a mutually rewarding association. They will contribute to business goals, develop themselves, transfer their knowledge and skills to their successors efficiently and effectively, and get on to the next levels of responsibility within the existing business or land a job elsewhere.

Challenge status quo that has survived for centuries. Businesses seeking greater vitality, strength and endurance would need to review their people policies with respect to organizational development. Re-examine how staff turnover rates, compensation, rewards and recognition, roles of individuals, succession planning, and above all, the kind of corporate culture that would facilitate succession as a way of life, have been perceived so far.

In my view, organizations that dare to implement ‘GGG’ will attract the best people – people who are motivated by challenges and find security in skill and competence. It will take a great leap of faith and imagination to achieve such an essential goal.

Meeting the succession challenge is like walking on water – or put another way – swimming!  We have walked on pavements far too long. What we need now is intelligent, courageous and generous leadership!

Businesses of the future will be benchmarked on the rate at which they achieve succession at every level.

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