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So you’ve chosen a successor, you’re preparing them to lead the business and you’ve told everyone what you’re doing.  Now it’s just a matter of executing the plan right?  Yes, for the most part.  But there’s another important thing to remember about the plan.  It seems simple, but lots of people forget all about it (or choose to ignore it).  Ask yourself:  What is the timetable?

My very unscientific research seems to indicate that everyone on the planet is going to retire at the same time:  someday.  “I’d like to retire someday”, “Someday, when I’m gone…”, “Junior, this will all be yours someday”.  Unfortunately, to borrow an early 70’s lyric, “Someday never comes”. 

One thing that’s true about change and change management in business is that rarely does anything happen without specific dates being included in the plan.  That fact is even more true as it relates to strategic planning.  Everyone knows you’re going to retire “someday”.  It doesn’t become real to anyone until you put a date on it.  Why does that matter?  Until there is a date, neither you or your successor will act with the urgency you need.  In addition,  no leader is just like you.  They’re going to do some things better than you, and there will be some things they need help with.  The fact that they need help means that this transition process is going to include a bunch of other people too.  And only a date will give those people some urgency.

And remember:  “5-10 years” isn’t a date.  Neither is, “Once the project is cSet the date for your succession plan, sense of urgencyompleted”.  Neither is, “Once we reach $10 million in sales”.  A date looks like this:  December 31, 2012.  Or June 30, 2013.  Or March 7, 2015.  Or whatever.  What the date is doesn’t matter.  What matters is that there needs to be one. 

Succession is work.  And nobody will do it until there is some urgency.  And there won’t be urgency until there’s a date.

What’s your date?

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