Succession Planning in Business and Organisations
How systemic constellations support the successful transition
Succession planning in business and in organisations can be a difficult and stressful period for all stakeholders. In this article, we are looking at hidden dynamics of succession and how to find possible solutions with family constellations. An introduction.
Succession planning challenges as a leadership priority
Eventually, in every business and organisation there comes a time when the founder or owner wants to retire or move on to do something different with her or his talents, live time and energy. This can be a very stressful period not only for the retiring person but also for the organisation, the family and other stakeholders such as partners, vendors and of course the customers. Leading through this time of uncertainty is a leadership challenge.
Where to find a successor?
There several ways to consider for finding a successor for the business:
- Finding a candidate within the organisation
- Hiring an external candidate
- Selling the business to an external buyer
- Selling the business to the team
- A child takes over the business
- Another family member takes over.
Every one of the possible approaches comes with its own set of questions, considerations and challenges. And this combination leads often to very different dynamics for the people who are involved and for the company.
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- Succession Planning as a highly dynamic process.
- Example Succession Constellation.
- How to resolve common succession challenges.
- Considerations for succession planning.
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Dealing with uncertainty
A transition and succession is a period of uncertainty. It puts a lot of stress on the individuals and stakeholders who are involved. This is true for
- the time leading up the point of the transitions
- the time during the transition
- and often for a long time after the transition.
In fact, some consequences may not reveal themselves immediately but over a long period of time. And then it is challenging to see all the dynamics which led to a situation with severe problems and entanglement.
The successor candidates may feel uncertain about her own capabilities or if the owner is serious about giving her the assignment and responsibilities?
- Will the owner be able to let go?
- The organisation experience anxiety. What about us and our families?
- An external buyer has other options and is asking whether he is buying a solid and sustainable business?
Each and every stakeholder is impacted and this makes is a challenge. The people who belong to the system and their relationships are complex.
Dealing with a transition and succession on top of the daily business and in face of the passing time can be an additional burden for the company owner.
Common problems during transition phases
Every transition has its own special circumstances and dynamic. The movements during such a transition are not only a matter of the number of people and their roles, but also their own family systems which are tied to them. Therefore, there is a sheer endless set of possible settings and each transition works out differently – or not.
There are several common and obvious problem which occur during a transition:
- The owner still wants to be involved and can’t let go.
- There is a name and reputation at stake. This is especially important for family businesses which stand in a long tradition.
- The social responsibility is a factor which is particularly important to the founder and owner of a business. And even more important in the Small and Medium Enterprise sector.
- The organisation may not feel comfortable with the new management and may event reject it. This can have severe consequences for both the organisation as well as the new owner or manager.
And there are also hidden dynamics and an undercurrent of issues which can make a transition very difficult for everybody involved. And more often than not the reasons are not obvious.
Possible ways to work through a succession planning challenge
Working with system visualisations, which are based on systemic constellations provides a way to surface the relationships, barriers, and entanglements in the system with all its members. During systemic constellations, the participants experience not only their own place and their own set of movements but get access to the hidden dynamics within such a system – and an organisation is usually filled with such hidden dynamics.
As a result, the person which is looking for a solution will gain insights and different perspectives about
- What to consider in the particular situation?
- Who belongs to the system?
- What could be a solution which is in resonance with all the members of the system?
- What works? What doesn’t work?
- What is the own place and role before, during and after the transition?
These are essential questions which have to be answered in any transition. Gaining insights early and from different perspectives is vital in order to steer through the challenging times and to enjoy retirement.
In a successful transition the stakeholders are in resonance and free to go forward.
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Podcast Episode: Succession Planning Dynamics
Find more management tips about succession planning, leadership transitions and successful handover in the Constellateur Podcast. It is a free resource for you and your team!
In summary, the transition and succession phase is a period of uncertainty, of additional work and emotional stress and requires a lot of leadership attention, awareness and empathy. Founders, owners and managers should start early and make themselves and others familiar with the particular dynamics of the transition early on during succession planning. Working with family and organisation constellations and system visualisations is a prudent approach which can surface the problems and provide useful hints for a successful transition.
Happy succession planning and leadership transition!
Frequently Asked Questions about Success Planning Challenges from a systemic perspective
How to find a successor for my family-owned business?
Finding a successor is undoubtedly a pivotal moment for any family business owner. While it’s natural to focus on the transactional aspects, it’s equally essential to recognize the broader implications on the entire familial and organizational system. Here’s a holistic approach with a systemic perspective:
1. Family Constellation Analysis:
Consider the intricate web of family dynamics. Systemic constellations can unveil hidden complexities and interdependencies. This involves understanding not just the professional competence but also the emotional and relational dynamics within the family.
2. Shared Vision Exploration:
Succession planning is not just about skills; it’s about aligning values and visions. Engage the family in a shared vision exploration. Systemically, this ensures that the incoming leader not only fits the role but also resonates with the family’s collective aspirations.
3. Open Dialogue Platforms:
Establish platforms for open dialogue. Systemic issues often remain concealed due to unspoken tensions. Regular family meetings or facilitated discussions create a space for transparent communication, fostering a healthier succession process.
4. Representative Constellations for Roles:
Systemic representative constellations can be invaluable. Visualizing the roles and responsibilities within the business through this method helps in identifying potential challenges and ensures a more balanced distribution of responsibilities.
5. Professional Guidance:
Seek professional guidance that understands the systemic intricacies of family businesses. A systemic coach or consultant can provide insights that go beyond the surface, addressing not only the immediate need for a successor but the long-term health of the family business.
In essence, viewing the succession process through a systemic lens is akin to nurturing the roots of a tree rather than just focusing on its branches. It ensures a smoother transition that respects not only the legacy of the business but the harmony of the entire family system.
What are typical succession planning challenges from a systemic perspective?
Common succession planning challenges include:
1. Finding and engaging suitable candidates as potential successors.
2. Involving the organisation and key stakeholder groups during the succession planning process.
3. Overcoming resistance to succession planning.
4. Often family members feel an obligation to take over the family-owned business from their parents or grand-parents.
5. Misaligned expectations, goals, deliverables and receivables during the succession transition period.
6. Inheritance disputes between family members.
7. The successor has challenges in finding her/his/their place in the organisation.
What are most common succession planning challenges family businesses?
From a systemic perspective, the most common succession planning challenges in family businesses and family-owned enterprises include
– The children and descendants do not have interest to work in the business.
– The business owner is not yet prepared to hand over the business.
– The former business owner is still meddling and interfering in the business.
– Conflict between the family field and the organizational field.
– Lack of trust in the successor.
What is the most common challenge during succession planning and leadership transition?
Choosing the wrong successor at the wrong time is the most common challenge business owners are dealing with.
How can systemic organizational and family constellations support succession planning?
Organizational constellations can provide new systemic insights in succession planning situations. With these insights, leaders and teams in business organizations and plan, prepare and support successful transitions.
What are the steps in a succession planning organisational constellation?
The key steps for an organisational constellation to address succession planning challenges include:
An initial orientation dialogue between the client (typically the business owner or group of owners) and the organisational constellation expert facilitator. This can be prior to the actual constellation work.
During the constellation workshop, the common steps are:
1. Clarifying the issue. The facilitator helps the client to focus on the most important issue to be worked on during the constellation.
2. Choosing representatives for the constellation in the systemic field.
3. The representatives are going with the inner movement.
4. The organisation constellation facilitator may ask clarifying questions to surface insights.
5. Identifying systemic pathways towards resolving the succession planning challenges.
To find out how a succession planning constellation can help you as a business owner or as a successor, book a free systemic orientation.
Where can I find more free resources for succession planning from a systemic perspective?
On the website constellateur.com we are providing a wide range of free resources designed to support business owners an successors in succession processes
• Free Podcast episodes about succession planning.
• Live webinars about succession planning.
• Webinar replays with succession planning tips.
• Succession planning videos on the Constellateur YouTube channel.
💬 We are also offering a free initial succession planning orientation discussion to clarify your requirements and to see if systemic approaches are a good fit for your situation and objectives.