Taking a Holistic Approach to Succession Planning

By Posted in - Succession/Talent Reviews on June 26th, 2013 0 Comments

It seems to me that too often a succession planning review consists of little more than placing people in a nine block matrix based on subjective opinions of performance and potential. These reviews and discussions could be much richer and productive if organizations adopted a broader, more holistic approach in their view of high potential talent.

The following areas I believe should form the basis of a holistic review:

Performance History

This is the price of admission for being considered as part of the succession pool. The performance history is important to verify the individual is a top performer and become more familiar with key accomplishments. They are important because past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.


In addition to accomplishments, it is important to have an accurate view of competency performance. This information typically is collected through 360 survey assessments. Ideally, the two dimensions of performance would be plotted in a nine block report to confirm that the individual is achieving outstanding results through the demonstration of exemplary behaviors.


OMNIview uses a multi-dimensional model of potential to create a norm-based analytic (see the white paper, “Unlocking the DNA of Potential” for a full discussion). This model includes raw potential (inherent predispositions and mental abilities), motivations (interest in advancement), experience (overall experience foundation) and multi-rater information (competency performance).

Foundational Experience

Experiences provide the foundation for knowing how to respond to critical challenges and situations. They are the well that individuals draw from when faced with new or unexpected situations. Although limited in number, there are norm-based inventories that are available for profiling key leadership experience levels.

Assessment Data

There are two key types of assessment data that should be collected and reviewed:


Although personality tests measure a variety of specific constructs, these constructs typically collapse to five basic factors of personality.These factors, commonly called “the big five,” include: (1) openness to experience, (2) extroversion, (3) agreeableness, (4) conscientiousness, and (5) emotional stability. The lack of adverse impact and the consistent evidence of validity have made personality testing a frequent component of selection procedures for a number of different kinds of positions. 

Mental Abilities

The most common type of ability test is a test of cognitive or mental ability. There is abundant evidence that this type of test is a strong predictor of overall performance across a wide range of jobs. There are three common types of mental ability tests.

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning is the ability to understand and reason using concepts framed in language.

Numerical Reasoning

Numerical reasoning is the ability to use numbers to develop, comprehend, and communicate ideas.

Abstract Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning is a measure of an individual’s ability to perceive and think clearly, make meaning out of confusion, and formulate new concepts when faced with novel information.

Passions, Preferences, & Motivations

Motivations and preferences are important determinants of job satisfaction. It is important to have individuals who are both able and willing to perform a role. Finding out the passions of an individual allows you to align them with future roles that feed those passions.


A derailer is a weakness that if not addressed or improved will likely prevent a high potential individual from achieving their true potential (for a full review see A Deeper Look at Leadership Derailers in the Talent Review Process). Some examples of derailers include “Takes credit for others’ actions”, “Being arrogant or self-promoting”, and “Lacks accountability/follow through”.

Taking all these measures into account allow you to formulate a development plan that is all encompassing and slot the individual on a succession path that is in full alignment with the whole person.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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