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Ask the Expert

“Ask the Expert” Small Group Discussion: Succession Management Program Design

An organization’s vision, strategies and culture help guide the design of a succession management system that will successfully identify and develop its future leaders. This session explores some key decisions and the consequences of the decisions that need to be addressed when designing and implementing a high-impact program. We will begin with the introduction of 7 topic areas that will be addressed in breakouts with expert facilitators (15 minutes). The remainder of the time will be spent in small group facilitated sessions (in three rounds).

If you are attending and have not yet signed up for the Ask the Expert small groups, you will have the opportunity to do so at the registration table.

Topic Presenters
  • What level of transparency should organizations have? 
    • What organizational factors need to be considered (e.g., culture, maturity)?
    • Tell or not, is the emphasis on assessment or development?
    • How to encourage candid dialogue regarding employees’ desires and limitations?
    • How do leaders understand the available talent across the organization?
    • What are the objections to increasing transparency across the organization?
    • How to increase leaders’ willingness to give up top talent?
  • Does an organization adopt a role-based, pool-based or a combination? 
    • What factors to consider in adopting either approach, or a combination?
    • How to segment roles (e.g., critical, developmental) for succession planning?
    • How to address changes in business priorities on talent requirements?
    • How to identify and plan for critical roles that don’t exist today?
    • How to estimate the size/depth of the talent pools that must be created?
    • How to combat the leader who merely wants to fill in the blank?
  • Paul Bly, Vice President, Talent & Development at Thomson, Reuters
  • Jana Fallon, Vice President, Executive Development, Prudential Financial  & Matt Dreyer, Director, Assessment & Selection, Prudential Financial (co-facilitators)
  • How to keep it simple, flexible and value-added? 
    • What data are necessary to make the right talent decisions?
    • Which tools and processes best maintain the value-complexity balance?
    • How do you keep it flexible to adapt to organizational changes?
    • What practices are a waste of time and money?
    • How to manage the process to ensure disciplined and regular execution? (e.g., top-down, staggered, target segments, timing in the cycle of business processes)
    • What innovative practices are companies using to simplify and keep cost down?
    • What may be the overcoming objections? How to address them?
  • Erika Degidio, Executive Director, Talent Management & Diversity, Bristol, Myers, Squibb


  • How to effectively design a succession management program on a global level?
    • How to do succession management in large, global, matrix organizations?
    • What strategies, tools and processes need to be adapted globally? 
    • What are typically the expectations on mobility as part of global succession plans?
    • How to deal with alignment in expectations, criteria, and assessment?
    • Who owns the talent? (e.g., a manager, department, region, enterprise?)
    • How do you drive compliance?
    • How does a diverse business develop a consistent process?
    • What practices work best in key markets (e.g., China, India)?


  • Mike Benson, Director, Leadership Development, Johnson & Johnson and Sarah Brock, Director, Assessment and Development Johnson and Johnson (co-facilitators)
  • Sandra Davis, Chair and Founder at MDA Leadership Consulting
  • How to effectively develop and retain talent through movement?
    • How to create meaningful development opportunities (e.g., stretch roles) when they don’t naturally exist in the organization?
    • How to successfully move talent to new roles when the organization does not have the luxury or risk profile to move or expose them outside the current role?
    • How to facilitate talent movement when the majority of roles are highly specialized or there are limited movement possibilities?
    • How to effectively deal with clogged pipelines?
    • What are the best strategies to retain key talent while the opportunities for which they are being readied become available or when the flow is not moving fast enough?
  • How to infuse more diversity into the pipeline? 
    • How to create a pipeline of leaders that reflects the current business and cultural components required to meet customer demand?
    • How to evaluate the diversity within an organization’s current pipelines and build a diverse pipeline for the future?
    • What are the barriers and the innovative practices organizations are using to break them?
    • What has been tried, but has had limited success? Why?
  • Vicki Flaherty, Leaders with Executive Potential Segment Leader, IBM Human Resources
  • How to engage leaders in succession management?
    • What strategies have been effective in engaging leaders when first initiating or expanding succession management?
    • What key roles must organization leaders play for succession management to be successful?
    • What outcomes are different when organization leaders are deeply involved (vs. superficially involved) in succession management?
    • How deeply in the organization should leaders be involved?
    • What role should organization leaders play in assessments related to succession management?
    • Are there elements of succession management that are best managed by HR rather than organization leaders?


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