Back in grade school you may have been taught to apply the “Five Ws and H” method when information-gathering. Back then, you were probably told that this formula of asking: Who, What, Where, When, Why (and sometimes How) when evaluating a situation is a good way to get the “full” story on something. In the professional world, researchers, journalists and police officers still use this rudimentary practice to make important determinations and predictions. With market research citing 80% of CEOs in North America have not identified a successor, perhaps it’s time executives go back to basics too and ask the following important questions:
- Who should we consider in the talent pool?
- What attributes do we need in our next generation of leaders?
- Where do we find these leaders— are they “home-grown” or brought in from the outside?
- When should we start planning for succession?
- Why have we not established a plan previously (in essence, what have been our limitations and how do we overcome them now)?
- How do we identify and assess these potential leaders? How are promising leaders developed, engaged and retained?
As business leaders address these questions and others to gain a comprehensive understanding of their current and future needs, it is imperative that all these “answers” are consistent with the company’s culture, values and overall business strategy. They should also be flexible, measurable and supported by a broad array of tools like behavioral assessments, and experiences such as mentoring, job rotations, special assignments, etc.).