By Dinte
Oct. 2, 2013

Last weekend, Davey Johnson coached his last game as Manager of the Washington Nationals after announcing his retirement from the game of baseball prior to the 2013 MLB season. Although Johnson may be gone, the organization still remains, and is now faced with the difficult task of replacing their head coach.

With the departure of Johnson, we at Dinte Executive Search thought it would be a great time to discuss succession planning. Without a succession plan in place, the departure of a head coach or business leader, whether expected or unexpected, can create a difficult and unstable environment for the team.  Below are a few tips for creating an effective succession plan.

  1. Be proactive, not reactive. Many organizations make the mistake of being reactive rather than proactive in their approach to succession planning. They don’t consider successors until after the person has left. Succession planning requires organizations to be proactive in their thinking in order to ensure that the right talent is in place.
  2. Involve key personnel. The Nationals have indicated that Johnson will remain with the organization through 2014 as a consultant and will assist the front office in finding his replacement. In both business and professional sports, there are many stakeholders involved in succession planning, and it is important to involve them at the appropriate time. Involve senior leadership as well as the board of directors in the development of a strategic plan. Doing so will create buy-in and alignment when it comes time to make a decision.
  3. Determine required skills and competencies. This involves more than the technical skills required to do the job. Think about the person’s ability to think strategically and bring innovative ideas to the organization. What is the leadership style of the person currently in this role? Is he or she a great communicator? Or a great collaborator? Or maybe a great listener? Determine which of these skills are most important for the person filling this role to possess.
  4. Identify and evaluate internal candidates. Davey Johnson has endorsed Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr, believing he has what it takes to be the manager of the team in 2014. When developing an effective succession plan, it is important to identify potential internal candidates and measure how they stack up against the established criteria. The top level leadership, along with the next level of management down, should be assessed. Doing so will allow you to determine the depth of the organization.

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