Succession Management Plan In Higher Education Business Essay

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A succession management plan is a proactive process that ensures continuing leadership committed to the organization's values, mission, and strategic plan by intentionally developing employees within the organization for advancement. For example, in 2001 when Herb Kelleher, the Southwest Airlines co-founder retired, he asserted, "Succession planning has been a major priority at Southwest for quite some time," and named James Parker, the company's general counsel to be Chief Executive Officer and Colleen Barrett, Kelleher's former legal secretary to be President and the Chief Operating Officer of the airline (Hirsch, 2001). While corporate America has embraced the model of succession management, the concept, although emphasized in the classroom in higher education, has largely been shunned by the administrations of universities and colleges. Understanding that institutions of higher learning should be operated on the foundation that they are also a business organization, these universities should implement the succession management strategies they are teaching in order to remain in the service-based business of providing an education.

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Walter Mahler established his dominance of the theory of succession management with his initial publication of "Executive Continuity," in 1973 (Mahler, Wrightnour, 1973). Then again in 1986, with the help of Stephen Drotter, he reinstated the impotance of the practice of succession management in their work, "The Succession Planning Handbook for the Chief Executive" (Mahler, Drotter, 1986). In both works, the authors assert the importance the practice of managing the succession of certain positions can have on the longevity and success of an organization. In his research, Mahler studied companies such as Exxon and General Electronics to demonstrate the way succession management practices can lead to the growth of future leaders. Mahler worked with Ted Levino, vice president of human resources for General Electronics at the time, to create and establish a set of guidelines to emphasize the importance of replacing key executive positions, often before a vacancy has been created. Mahler and Levino are recognized as having developed the succession strategy to such an extent that General Electronics became known as an "academy company" because it was producing so many of tomorrow's successful leaders(Kesler, 2002).

Through his research, Mahler has created a systematic approach to establish a successful pattern in developing leaders. Over the years, management experts have added to his original methodology, and additional principles have evolved with respect to the value and means of succession management. Many of the new concepts used in today's business practices have been developed through the failures of more antiquated methods(Kesler, 2002) For example, experts have determined that that it is more rewarding to practice the sound growth of leadership pools that include multiple candidates than it is to place emphasis on forecasting and specific replacement management. Also, it is recommended that current CEOs place more value on developing these potential leaders and less effort in saving face with boards of directors who have little influence on the overall future of the company (Mahler, Drotter, 1986)

Regarding the theory of developing leaders, practices of creating pools of replacement candidates should not lead to organizations merely creating replicas of their existing leadership. Although the current leadership may be successful, tomorrow's leaders should have an understanding of the importance of flexibility and vision that is necessary to remain relevant in a constantly progressing world. By syncing this business strategy with the existing and forthcoming human capital of the respective organization, businesses are able to maximize the value and strength of their potential candidates for the succession of a position. This is accomplished by moving employees through different roles in a company and presenting them with challenges that require the invocation of knowledge acquired through past experiences.

As demonstrated through the actions taken by Southwest, many of today's premier companies are developing a strategic succession management plan to remain competitive and atop their respective industries. Many colleges and universities have embraced the belief that the most effective means for running their institutions is through that of a competitive business approach in the industry of higher education. This commonly accepted rationale of thinking leads to the belief that institutions of higher learning should implement forms of succession management in order to remain competitive with other colleges and universities with similar characteristics. However, many organizations fail to understand the importance of this idea. Cembrowski and Costa (1998) stated that due to a lack of resources concerning succession in education, there was a "need to look at the business literature on succession planning." Although many universities will teach the importance of succession management for a healthy organization to their business students, many of these same institutions will fail to practice what they preach.

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Jonathon Clunies dug deeper into this lack of implementation of succession management in higher education and stated that "succession planning is an especially difficult concept to apply in academia due to dramatic cultural differences between the boardroom and the campus (Clunies, 2007)." Jolene Lampton (2010) has also cited the difficulty in connecting a principle taught in classes with a concept that should be applied in the administrations of higher education institutions. Lampton conducted a study that reveals "…67 percent of respondents reported that succession planning was not recommended…" in their university (Lampton, 2010). This is an alarming response indicating avoidance by administrations in higher education to a proven successful business concept. Lampton's findings disclose that the departmental managers in universities surveyed had made plans for implementing their own form of succession management within their division, but that they had not received any support or leadership from their supervisors regarding these plans.

Although Lampton's respondents felt that succession management should be implemented and could be used as a successful tool, they have not been able to reap the rewards that are associated with proper implementation of an established plan. Clunies and Mahler both support Lampton's supposition that the leadership in higher administration must be committed to a succession management plan or it will fail at the departmental level. Citing Mahler, Clunies writes, "Top management must make a commitment to and actively participate in the succession planning process" (Clunies, 2007). Without the support of supervisors and current leaders, even the strongest plan will not be able to survive or successfully be executed. Likewise, the National Academy of Public Administration has concluded that successful succession plans in both the public and private sector have at least one thing in common: upper leadership was readily involved throughout the entire process.

With educational leadership involved in succession planning across the entire organization, they are more likely to ensure that the strategic plan is being properly enacted. By keeping the values, mission, and strategic plan at the center of the organization's succession management process, the organization, whether it is a corporation or an institution of higher learning, is able to compete with a rapidly evolving environment. If the succession plan is not correctly linked to the strategy that the organization as a whole is pursuing, then the plan is doomed to fail; and is thus a waste of money and time. However, if successfully implemented, a succession management plan will ensure that institutions will be able to retain and develop their current good employees, and also establish guidelines for attracting employees of that caliber throughout the entire organization for the foreseeable future. Clunies (2007) maintains that colleges and universities are continually being forced into a changing environment in which they must adapt in order to compete and survive. He asserts that part of this adaption process is maintaining an evolving perspective based on introspective ideas such as: Are we keeping the level of employees desired for our organization, and what kind of employees will we need to maintain our business strategy in the future?

Cembrowski and Costa (1998) have emphasized the role that human resources plays in the succession planning activities.  They believe that the human resources department is responsible for overseeing and providing the information and data on which a review process would be compiled.  Clunies concurs with Cembrowski and Costa noting, "periodic human resources review meetings typically provide the forum for identifying superior employees and planning for their development" (2007).  Mahler (1986) also believes that the review process is the most vital component in the succession system.  These review meetings allow for the organization's leaders to discuss candidates in an open environment that allows for unified support or criticism.  Also, these meetings allow the key leadership positions to be able to maintain an understanding of the importance that the succession management process carries.  Interestingly enough, processes similar to these are typically practiced in colleges and universities by their tenure boards (Clunies, 2007).

Cembowski and Costa (1998) have conducted a study of leaders at a postsecondary institution in an effort to discover what was most important to their success. Their findings show that the leaders attribute their success to the key role their environment played. The opportunities to grow and learn are most prevalent in scenarios in which employees are given the chance to complete various job experiences. This opportunity creates a need and desire to be challenged, which, in turn, produces personal growth and acquired knowledge through practical learning that could not have been learned otherwise. Clunies (2007) states, "The concept of job rotations seems to be foreign to most institutions of higher education at present, especially at senior management levels." This statement fully supports the premise that most colleges and universities are not successfully implementing succession management plans that provide the most benefit for their employees.

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Job rotation plays a key role in the success of an employee throughout their time spent at the respective institution. Clunies (2007) has concluded that "succession planning requires intentional movement of individuals among assignments for developmental purposes, even when not in the best interest of short-term business necessity." The important inference here is that the character and lessons that will be learned through these intentional movements will vastly outweigh the slight drawbacks that could be correlated with marginally less educated decision making in the short term. Although the employee might not make the same decision as their predecessor, they will be forced to push the limits of their current capabilities in order to make the best decision possible. In the long run, this will play a vital role in the success and cross-layering of the intellectual property of the institution's employees.

Clunies (2007) has postulated an interesting idea. Businesses and corporations have shown the advantages that arise from challenging employees through new job tasks. The challenges that are faced by high-potential candidates often require the same skill set needed for being a successful executive officer. However, imagine if this concept is paralleled with the practices of institutions of higher learning. A vice president of finance will have a very interesting view point when called upon to complete the tasks of the vice president of student services. Likewise, the vice president of academic affairs will have even more insight when asked to perform the duties of the vice president of development. If this chain of job rotation is continued for an established period of time, the lessons learned and understanding acquired through these positions would be of unquantifiable value when the time comes for consideration of the next president of the institution.

Success has been measured as a level of achievement and in life that is the direct result of education through learning and growth that is provided through the challenge of new experiences (Cemboski, Costa 1998). Often, in universities and colleges, due to the fact that the main objective of these schools is to provide for the education of their customers, the students, the institution's employees are not viewed as needing additional education. This neglect results in the faculty and staff creating their own plans of actions in order to obtain more education to become a better employee. A self-motivated not an institution-directed education is the norm on most campus for employees.

In addition to identifying the existence of self-motivated learning in higher education, Cembowski and Costa (1998) have also discovered that there are certain opportunities that heightened the potential for positional progression up the ladder in universities and colleges. Their study indicates that job rotations, formal training plans, and administrative internship programs are viewed as the most rewarding mechanisms available for faculty through universities. Dilworth (1995) supports the importance behind the theory of job rotation and cross-position learning "when a sufficient amount of time is involved, such as six months, to cause the exhangee to accept accountability from some of the decisions made." Formal training programs allow for a systematical approach to theory learning. However, the importance of this program can not completely be seen until a form of mentorship is completed.

The mentorship program allows for direct learning from an accomplished, successful advisor. Although this method has its strong points, some organizations choose to divulge in simple administrative internship programs. These programs are very similar in style to the job rotation format. The employee is given an established period of time to experience the responsibilities of a new job. However, the internship program allows the opportunity for lower-tier staff to gain favor and credibility through performing administrative tasks that are deemed much more challenging than their prior position provided (Cembrowski, Costa, 1998). The importance of employee empowerment and education is key because it allows for trust to be established and further developed; and this trust leads to the desired synergy that has become a predominant factor in today's leading organizations. When successful means of employee education are established, university departments will work in sync and be able to accomplish far greater feats than they could individually.

However, the best succession management plans will be impotent if the institutions that practice them do not involve the correct employees. These methods of improving the quality of the faculty and staff will not reach their greatest potential if the wrong candidates are put through the program. There is a valued importance in choosing the correct training pool that can not easily be measured. Although external candidates are always an option when considering the succession management of a position, executive search-firms have shown that there is a distinct advantage to an internal versus an external candidate. Dennis Barden (2008), vice president of an academic executive search-firm, emphasizes that an external candidate may be more accomplished and have greater experience with respect to a given position, but the working knowledge of the institution that an internal candidate brings to the table is an incredible tool and frequent deciding factor. The intricacies provided through an internal candidate's perspective often times lead to a more complex vetting process. "Indeed, more time is generally spent in search-committee meetings on a single internal candidate than on any three external ones," states Barden (Barden 2008).

Through the proper implementation of a succession plan, institutions of higher learning will be able to push their academic and organizational excellence to new levels. Utilizing this strategic process, colleges and universities will be able to attain a degree of accomplishment that can only be efficiently derived through employee self-motivation and internal support of the embowered body of educators. Through these facilitating mechanisms, colleges and universities alike will be able to continue to advance their own capabilities; and the means of measuring these advancements will be evident through the growth of the benefitted students. The education of tomorrow's leaders fully relies on the capacity of today's mentors to pass on gained knowledge and experience-the knowledge and experience????? that is learned through job rotation, formal training programs, and employee education. Only by making the most of the faculty and staff, will institutions be able to capitalize their available tools for improvement and growth in their industry as an organization. By practicing the methods in the boardrooms that they are teaching in the classrooms, universities will become a haven of self-improvement and reciprocal education

Thelma Scott-Skillman restates the importance for institutions of higher learning follow in the footsteps of accomplished corporations by showing there is a "…need to develop a succession plan to respond to the critical shortage of effective leaders within the current pipeline of educators" (Scott-Skillman, 2007).  Clunies (2007) asserts that an important aspect of this process is assigning a benchmark to similar institutions as well as universities in which the college at hand desires to mimic.  Establishing these benchmarks will allow for a comparison through which the organization will be able to measure their growth and success rate outside of the direct results of the students they are producing.  In the absence of conscious comparisons, institutions are allowing themselves to become vulnerable to not fulfilling their potential; which is a mistake of dire consequence.  By not performing at the best of their ability, colleges and universities compromise their integrity as a body of higher learning, and as Scott-Skillman ascertains, they are "…risking the fundamental elements of their very existence (Scott-Skillman, 2007)."  This risk of failure is due to the direct relationship between the institution's existence and the current and future student's perceived perception of the value of that institution's academic excellence.

Simply enough, the enrichment of the employees at a university has a direct reflection on the success of that university due to the enrollment of students desiring the high quality of education that is offered through the knowledge and experience of the instructors and administration. A succession management plan is the most efficient way of attaining this desired outcome through a preventative, self-maintaining methodology that balances the importance of keeping the institution's mission and strategy parallel with the abilities and accomplishments of its human capital. In order to operate as a modern organization, institutions of higher learning must adhere to the insights and follow in the footsteps of larger private sector businesses with relation to their administrative practices; this can be evidently seen in the advancement and adaptation of the up and coming, revolutionary practice of succession management in higher education.

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