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BLUF: If you like the MT approach to Succession Planning, but were looking for forms that provide much more room to write, check out my top sheet and individual succession planning page.

Recently, I re-listened to the MT podcast series on succession planning (found here).  I've been trying to get better at looking across my team as our center's opportunities and responsibilities change.  I love how brief Mark's form is from the third podcast in the series, but it wasn't working for me.  I'm still new at this, and I tend to "think with my pen" quite a bit.

For anyone else new/struggling in this area, here's what I came up with (still do-able for my whole team in under an hour...probably 30 or so minutes once I'm in the swing of it):

My top sheet provides a summary of where everyone in the team is at on top, and at the bottom is a quick list of my major projects/responsibilities and who to turn to if I get hit by a bus.  This is at the front of the most recent succession planning packet, in the very front of my "important people files" drawer, where my supervisor or colleagues could find it if I die.  (Hey, I'm in infosec, it's our job to plan for those black swan events!)

Following the top sheet is a copy of the individual succession planning page for each of my directs:

  • On the top line, I write their name (large and easy to read).  The blank space next to it gets the date I filled out the form.
  • The next line has the options "Ready Now", "Ready Next", "Not Ready".... I highlight the one that fits in a bright color.
  • The "Current Role:" line is (hopefully) self-explanatory.
  • I use the "Strengths" block not to create a laundry list of things the person is good at, but to capture a handful of key skills or capabilities that they both have and tend to lean on to get the job done.  It's more of a "how does this person define the games that they win?" thing to me.
  • I use the "Weaknesses" block to describe things that I see as blockers or stumbling blocks for the person in question.  
  • The last block has a title space that will become "Ready For:", "Ready Next For:", or "Not Ready:" depending on where I placed that direct.  What follows definitely includes what I think they are ready (now or next) for, but also plenty of space for me to get out what led me there or what my open questions are.  This has helped me examine my thinking more, insure that I'm putting into words what I want to do next about these observations, and catch myself in biases or faulty reasoning.

So...that's my non-simple answer to the MT Simple Succession Planning Form.  This is the first quarter I've done this (I force myself to sit through a quick SP exercise in the first month of each quarter), but I feel like I got much more out of it than with the old form.

The first thing I noticed this time around was that my top three performers all have weaknesses/gotchas related to delegation.  Given how much I struggled to learn to delegate effectively (and how much I still need to improve), I strongly suspect I need to get better at teaching this skill.  I might have known this on some level before, but it hadn't bubbled to the surface until I forced myself to sit and write (aka "think with my pen") more.