5 Case Studies In Successful Succession Planning


Case Study: The PLC

A PLC board and investors are expected to have a high level foresight from its executive team.

“We must have succession plans for the next 12 to 24 months, or even a longer time period,” states Sarah Totham, Director, Talent and Organisational Development at Legal & General.

The FTSE 100 financial service company is divided into seven divisions. These include investment management, insurance, and mature savings. Each division is led by a CEO who reports to Nigel Wilson, the group CEO.

Moving talent across divisions is a key challenge in these organizations. It is, however, also a great opportunity.

“We have moved many people around. Totham says that the divisional CEOs who were appointed internally have all been moved to a new part of the company.

“Next level, we work with divisional CEOs to develop plans for their teams. This encourages moves across the group since these CEOs tend not to work within their verticals.”

The key advice: “Make sure you have a successor, and that you are not incompetent in your job. It is a sign that you are strong in leadership and allows you to move on.


Case Study: The global consulting partnership

McKinsey & Company’s global managing partner is elected every three years by over 600 of its senior partners. After three years, incumbents may resubmit to be re-elected.

“You have to ensure that there are candidates to choose from every three years. This is achieved by offering partners leadership opportunities that can be tested ,” states McKinsey’s Dominic Barton as Managing Partner Emeritus.

Barton was the first global managing partner elected in 2009, and was re-elected twice more.

When his name was first listed on the 2003 list of candidates, he was the Korean McKinsey office manager. Ian Davis, then a successful candidate, made arrangements for Barton, who was to assume the chair of Asia in 2004. He still holds that position five years later.

“The global managing partner who is a successful one uses the ballot to identify future candidates and offers them leadership opportunities.”

It is important to plan for the succession of the global managing director.

Barton concludes, “If a lot of people leave after the election, it is not good sign.”

The key advice: “If you go around saying that you want to lead, people will be put off.” Talk to leaders from the past. Learn from them how they developed in times of crisis or when starting a business.


Case Study: The specialist resourcing company

Huntswood provides its client, the financial sector, with a variety of customer-focused services, such as complaints handling, by providing freelance contractors.

Because of the nature and business of our clients, it is crucial to hire such contractors. Huntswood’s Chief Of Staff Sara Robinson says that all our contractors are well-known to Huntswood.

“We’ve even seen contractors develop. Today, we have one contractor who began at 16 years old and is now a manager.”

Huntswood isn’t the only one who gets to know contractors.

Robinson adds that “some contractors have been working with a client so long it becomes risky if they move on.”

Huntswood’s succession planning is not only about its 226 employees, but also its 4,000 contractors.

It often suggests to its clients in financial services that the contractor be added to its at-risk list.

“We encourage clients to work full-time for an employer, and to hire a contractor to learn other skills.”

The key advice: “HR did not do succession planning for the business in the past. That is why it is shelved.” HR now gets it started, trains colleagues, and then they take control.”


Case Study: Non-executives on PLC boards

Milena Djurdjevic says, “If a CFO wishes to succeed as a CEO,”

“But that’s impossible for non-executives, because there’s very little potential for personal growth on a boards.”

There are a few exceptions, according to the founder of Calibro , which advises chairpersons, senior independent directors, and nomination committees regarding board succession planning and composition.

“You wouldn’t take someone on to chair a board if they have not been chair. They could have been chair of the audit or remuneration committees.

As businesses experience rapid market changes, the strength and importance of a board is more important than ever.

Djurdjevic works closely with clients to find people with broad-based skills. This ensures that, even if a company’s strategy changes dramatically, non-executives have the ability to handle it.

“Non-executives who cannot contribute to strategy after changes have limited value.”

The key advice: “Appoint someone to the board who has an understanding of the business’s direction.” Executive teams can benefit from the expertise of a non-executive member.


Case Study: The Scaleup

Many startups don’t think about succession planning.

“The assumption is the founder/CEO won’t be leaving the company until it goes busts or gets acquired,” states Eamonn carey, the MD of Techstars London. But that is not always true.

Denver-based was founded in 2009 as a Techstars alumni. It delivers, tracks, and scales email messages. Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb are some of the customers.

Isaac Saldana was its cofounder and founding CEO. The company had 20 employees at the time and many thousand customers, so he decided to step aside in 2011.

Saldana was replaced by CEO Jim Franklin, who was formerly with Oracle. He wrote that he wanted to “focus on managing growth, scaling the business,” in a blog post at the time.

The scaleup had 250 employees and 175,000 customers three years later. Franklin was then able to pass the CEO’s responsibilities to Sameer Dholakia (Group VP and GM at Citrix). In 2017, the company went public and Twilio announced that SendGrid would be purchased by Twilio.

The key advice: “Starting, scaling, and public company. Each stage is very different.” There are some CEOs who can handle all three, but there are many others who are able to manage them all. However, there are many who are able to switch with someone who ‘s more experienced in the next stage.

HEY! Could we ask you for a favor? Would you share this article with your friends? It costs you nothing and it takes just a second, but means the world to us. Thanks a lot!