As organizations move into greater maturity it becomes increasingly important to have both emergency and long-term succession plans in place that are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis (every 1–2 years). These plans help build organizational resilience in the face of different types of leadership transitions — both planned and unanticipated. They allow the organization to proactively address key risks and thus fulfill an important governance function. Having documented plans also provides clarity and assurance to board, staff, and major funders of the organization’s thoughtfulness, readiness and sophistication.

While both types of plans are important and help protect the mission continuity of the organization, they do serve different needs and have different components.

An emergency succession plan is just that — a guide for how the organization will respond to a sudden and unanticipated leadership gap.

A long-term succession plan is just that — a thoughtful approach to thinking about future leadership transitions over the coming years. These plans do not stand in isolation, but instead should be completely integrated with an organization’s strategy, organizational design, culture, approach to talent, financial plan, and annual budget priorities.

The idea behind either type of plan is to help the organization navigate one of the most complex and high stakes changes it will face. Either plan will help mitigate disruption and ensure mission continuity. With my clients, I use the concepts of Readiness and Resilience in developing these plans.

Another helpful framework is to think about the dynamics of what makes an organization Resilient in the face of such a major leadership change. If the organization had to manage an emergency leadership gap, or if it had to successfully attract/recruit/retain the next leader (whether coming internally or through recruiting), how well would it perform?

Read the full article about thoughtful CEO succession planning by Emily Sterling at Medium.