apple Develop Key Documents

STEP THREE: Developing Succession Planning Documentation

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As you will have discovered after completing the checklists in the previous chapter, there are several documents that are critical to ensure successful succession. This chapter will look at a few samples to help get you started.

Succession Policy

It is important to have a succession policy. This policy will help to guide your succession planning efforts and is a key document to have in the Succession Planning Binder. If you don’t have one in place already, you will need to draft and adopt a succession policy. Once adapted and adopted by the Board, a copy of the policy should be kept with the other agency policies. A copy should also be kept in the Succession Planning Binder. The following policy is reflective of a change in leadership. This policy could be modified to reflect a change in other key staff.

Sample Succession Policy

Policy statement:

A change in executive leadership is inevitable for all organizations and can be a very challenging time. Therefore, it is the policy of [insert agency name here] to be prepared for an eventual permanent change in leadership – either planned or unplanned – to insure the stability and accountability of the organization until new permanent leadership is identified. The Board of Directors shall be responsible for implementing this policy and its related procedures.

It is also the policy of the Board to assess the permanent leadership needs of the organization to help ensure the selection of a qualified and capable leader who is representative of the community; a good fit for the organization’s mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives; and who has the necessary skills for the organization. To ensure that the organization’s day-to-day operations are not interrupted while the Board of Directors assess the leadership needs and recruit a permanent Executive Director, the Board will appoint interim executive leadership. The Interim Executive Director shall ensure that the organization continues to operate without disruption and that all organizational commitments previously made are adequately executed, including but not limited to, reports due, contracts, licenses, certifications, memberships, obligations to funders of [insert agency name here ], and others. The Interim Executive Director and any other interested internal candidates are encouraged to submit their qualifications for review and consideration by the search committee according to the guidelines established for the search and recruitment process.

Procedures for succession:

For a temporary change in executive leadership (i.e., illness or leave of absence) refer to the organization’s emergency succession plan. In the event the Executive Director of [insert agency name here] is no longer able to serve in this position (i.e., leaves the position permanently), the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors shall do the following to appoint an Interim Executive Director.

Within fifteen (15) business days appoint a Transition Committee, in the event that a permanent change in leadership is required. This committee shall be comprised of at least one member of the Executive Committee and two other members of the Board of Directors. It shall be the responsibility of this committee to implement the following preliminary transition plan:

  • Communicate with key stakeholders regarding actions taken by the Board in naming an interim successor, appointing a Transition Committee, and implementing the succession policy. The organization shall maintain a current list of key stakeholders who must be contacted, such as lenders and investors of [insert agency name here], government agencies, etc.
  • Consider the need for consulting assistance (i.e., transition management or executive search consultant) based on the circumstances of the transition.
  • Review the organization’s business plan and conduct a brief assessment of organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to identify priority issues that may need to be addressed during the transition process and to identify attributes and characteristics that are important to consider in the selection of the next permanent leader.
  • Establish a time frame and plan for the recruitment and selection process.
  • Refer to the Executive Director Hiring Policy and Procedures in the personnel handbook for additional procedures.
  • The Board should use similar procedures in case of an executive transition that simultaneously involves the Executive Director and other key management. In such an instance, the Board may also consider temporarily subcontracting some of the organizational functions to a trained consultant or other organizations.

Emergency Succession Plan

Another critical document is an Emergency Succession Plan. It is needed to help deal with unexpected changes in key staff. The following sample has been drafted for an emergency succession of an Executive Director. This sample could be used to guide the development of the emergency succession of other key staff members, as well.

Once a comprehensive Emergency Succession Plan has been drafted and approved, it should be kept in the Emergency Succession Folder. It is important to document any revisions to the plan such as the reason for the changes, who approved the changes, who implemented the changes and when. A record of any changes should be kept with the most current version of the plan.

Sample Emergency Succession Plan

  1. Rationale

The Executive Director position in a non-profit organization is a central element in the organization’s success. Therefore, insuring that the functions of the Executive Director are well understood and even shared among staff and Board members is important for safeguarding the organization against unplanned and unexpected change. This kind of risk management is equally helpful in facilitating a smooth leadership transition when it is predictable and planned.

This document outlines a leadership development and emergency succession plan for the (insert agency name here). This plan reflects(insert agency name here) Executive Succession Policy and its commitment to sustaining a healthy functioning organization. The purpose of this plan is to ensure that the organization’s leadership has adequate information and a strategy to effectively manage (insert agency name here) in the event the Executive Director is unable to fulfill his or her duties.

  1. Plan Implementation

The Board of Directors authorizes the Board Chair to implement the terms of this emergency succession plan in the event of a planned or unplanned temporary or short-term absence.

  • It is the responsibility of the Executive Director to inform the Board of Directors of a planned temporary or short-term absence, and to plan accordingly.
  • It is the responsibility of the agency staff to immediately inform the Board Chair of an unplanned temporary or short-term absence.
  • As soon as feasible, following notification of an unplanned temporary or short-term absence, the Board Chair shall convene a Board meeting to ratify this plan, or to modify if needed.
  1. Priority Functions of the Executive Director

The Executive Director job description for (insert agency name here) is attached to this plan. Among the duties listed in the job description, the following are considered to be the key functions of the Executive Director and have been assigned a corresponding temporary staffing strategy.

priority

The positions assigned in the Temporary Strategy should be based on the current positions at the agency. Where this plan is implemented and positions are vacant or no longer available, the Executive Committee and/or Board Chair shall select the Board member and staff to support each of the key Executive Director functions

  1. Succession plan in the event of a short-term temporary, planned or unplanned absence
    1. Definition
      A temporary absence is one in which it is expected that the Executive Director will return once the events precipitating the absence are resolved.

      • An unplanned absence is one that arises unexpectedly, in contrast to a planned leave, such as vacation or a sabbatical.
      • A temporary absence is thirty days or less.
      • A temporary short-term absence is between thirty and ninety days.
    2. Temporary Staffing Strategy
      For temporary planned or unplanned absences of thirty or fewer days, the Temporary Staffing Strategy described above may become effective.

      • In the event of a temporary short-term planned or unplanned absence, the Executive Committee shall determine if the Temporary Staffing Strategy is sufficient for this period of time.
    3. Appointing an Interim Executive Director
      • Based on the anticipated duration of the absence, the anticipated return date, and accessibility of the current Executive Director, the Executive Committee may appoint an Interim Executive Director, as well as continue to implement the Temporary Staffing Strategy.
    4. Standing Appointees to the Position of Interim Executive Director
      • The first position in line to be Interim Executive Director is the current Board Chair. If the current Board Chair accepts the position he/she will take a temporary leave from the Board of Directors.
      • The second position in line is a previous Board Chair or current Board Member.
      • The third position in line is Director-level staff.
      • In the event the available staff is new to the position or fairly inexperienced with (insert agency name), the Executive Committee may consider another appointee or the option of splitting executive duties among designated appointees.
    5. Training Plan
      • The Board and Executive Director shall develop a training plan for each of the key functions of the Executive Director listed in Section 3.
      • An up-to-date training plan shall be attached to this document.
    6. Authority and Restrictions of the Interim Executive Director
      • The Interim Executive Director shall have full authority for day-to-day decision making and independent action as the regular Executive Director.
      • Decisions that shall be made in consultation with the Board Chair and/or Executive Committee include staff hiring and terminations, financial issues, taking on a new project, and taking public policy positions on behalf of the organization.
      • For additional communication guidelines refer to the organization’s operating policies on transitions.
    7. Compensation
      • Staff appointed as Interim Executive Director may receive an end of year bonus or additional benefit. This shall be determined by the Executive Committee based on the duration of the assignment and available resources.
      • If staff serves as Interim Executive Director for six months or more, the Executive Committee may consider a salary adjustment.
      • A current or former board member appointed as Interim Executive Director may enter into an independent contractor agreement, depending on the circumstances of their availability.
    8. Board Oversight and Support to the Interim Executive Director
      • The Interim Executive Director reports to the Board Chair. In the event the Board Chair becomes the Interim Executive Director, the Vice President shall be appointed Board Chair.
      • The Executive Committee shall be alert to the special support needs of the Interim Executive Director in this temporary role. The Executive Committee shall convene monthly when an Interim Executive Director is appointed.
    9. Communications Plan
      • Within forty-eight hours after an Interim Executive Director is appointed, the Board Chair and the Interim Executive Director shall meet to develop a communications plan including the kind of information that will be shared and with whom.
      • As soon as possible, the Board Chair and Interim Executive Director shall implement the communications plan to announce the organization’s temporary leadership structure to staff, the Board of Directors, and key stakeholders.
  1. Succession plan in the event of a long-term temporary, unplanned absence
    1. Definition
      A long-term absence is ninety days or more.
    2. Procedures
      • Procedures and conditions to be followed shall be the same as for a temporary short-term absence with the following addition:
        • The Executive Committee shall give immediate consideration, in consultation with the Interim Executive Director, to temporarily filling the position left vacant by the Interim Executive Director, or reassigning priority responsibilities where help is needed to other staff. This is in recognition that, for a term of ninety days or more, it may not be reasonable to expect the Interim Executive Director to carry the duties of both positions.
        • The Board Chair and Executive Committee are responsible for gathering input from staff and reviewing the performance of the Interim Executive Director according to the organization’s Performance Review Policy. A review shall be completed between thirty and forty-five days.
  1. Succession plan in the event of a permanent unplanned absence
    1. Definition
      A permanent absence is one in which it is firmly determined that the Executive Director will not be returning to the position.
    2. Procedures
      • Procedures and conditions to be followed shall be the same as for a temporary short-term absence with the following additions:
      • The Board of Directors shall consider the need to hire an Interim Executive Director instead of appointing an Interim Executive Director. This decision shall be guided, in part, by internal candidates for the Executive Director position, the expected time frame for hiring a permanent executive, and the management needs of the organization at the time of the transition.
      • The Board of Directors shall appoint a Transition Committee to implement the organization’s Succession Policy to transition to a new permanent Executive Director. A copy of (insert agency name here) policy is attached.
    3. Hiring an Interim Executive Director
      • If an Interim Executive Director is hired, the Board Chair and Executive Committee shall negotiate an independent contractor agreement with a defined scope of work.
      • The scope of the agreement with an Interim Executive Director shall be determined based on an assessment of the organization’s needs at the time of the leadership transition.
      • The rate of compensation shall be based on guidelines for Interim Executive Directors followed by the (insert agency name here).
    4. Responsibilities of the Interim Executive Director
      • An Interim Executive Director shall have full authority for day-to-day decision making and independent action as the regular Executive Director.
      • Decisions that shall be made in consultation with the Board Chair and/or Executive Committee include staff hiring and terminations, financial issues, taking on a new project, and taking policy positions on behalf of the organization.
    5. Board Oversight and Support to the Interim Executive Director
      • The Interim Executive Director reports to the Board Chair.
      • The Executive Committee shall be alert to the special support needs of the Interim Executive Director in this temporary role. The Executive Committee shall convene monthly when an Interim Executive Director is hired.
      • The Board Chair and Executive Committee are responsible for gathering input from staff and reviewing the performance of the Interim Executive Director according to the organization’s Performance Review Policy. An initial review shall be completed between thirty and forty-five days, and ninety days thereafter.
  1. Approvals and maintenance of records
    1. Emergency Succession Plan Approval
      • This emergency succession plan shall be approved initially by the Board of Directors.
      • Thereafter, annually, the Executive Committee shall review the plan and recommend amendments to the full Board as needed.
    2. Signatories
      • The Board Chair, the Executive Director, and the appointees designated in the Emergency Succession Plan shall sign the plan.
      • At all times the Board Chair and Treasurer, in addition to the Executive Director, shall have signature authorization for cheques and contracts for the organization.
    3. Maintenance or record
      • Copies of this plan shall be maintained by all members of the Board of Directors, Director-level staff and the organization’s auditor in accordance with document retention requirements.
    4. Financial Considerations
      • It shall be the responsibility of the Executive Committee to review the organization’s finances during an unplanned absence of the Executive Director.
      • (Insert agency name) maintains an operating reserve that the Board Chair is authorized to access with Executive Committee approval.
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