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“Seamless succession planning is straightforward but. requires putting the emotional baggage aside”


I have been thinking lately about the  critical need for succession planning and  decided that I would address it in a Facilities column. Then,  one night  recently, I thought to myself:  “Am I crazy?” I’m the  new kid on this  block,  and I surely don’t  want  to become tagged as the  naysayer in the group. After all, my first foray into Facilities last  month was an indictment of the  information systems of yesteryear — another one of those subjects everybody wants to avoid  discussing.

Since then, however, I’ve been involved in several discussions that have  validated the  need for up-to-date data at your  fingertips. The bottom line: Accurate information is not  an option; it’s a necessity in today’s wild world of feed manufacturing management.

So, on that subject, I’ll simply say that I hope all of you are taking  an inside-out look at how your  data systems work — or don’t  — and  updating your network to bring  it into this century.

Now, on to the  next  thorny topic: succession planning. This is, for sure, the  elephant in the room. It’s sort of like estate planning on a business level. Nobody — and  I mean nobody— running a company wants to deal  with their own eventual irrelevance or, worse yet, mortality. Still, the  fact is that every company puts succession planning on its leadership team’s agenda for the  year,  but  most times, that’s as far as it gets. It’s discussed, yes, but  other business priorities always take precedence. Just  for a moment, though, you need to consider what  you would do if one day, without warning, your  plant manager called you from Arizona  and  said  he had decided to trade in his dirty jeans and  hard hat  for a nifty pair  of new golf shorts and  cap.  After you recovered from the  shock, would  you be prepared to move your  manufacturing operation forward flawlessly? I seriously doubt it.

Seamless succession planning is pretty straightforward, but  the decision to commit is emotionally driven. For those of you who can put  the  emotional baggage aside, here are some suggestions on how to move  forward:

Commit to the process.

Accept the  fact that you, the top executives, own this.  Its success or failure is dictated by your determination to move this process forward. Once you acknowledge this reality, the rest will follow. Look for leaders, you may or may not have leaders in your ranks.


If you do, develop their skills. If you don’t,  go out and  find a few. Leaders are essential

to success: They  are results-driven, they inspire and  motivate teams and  they

are the  engine that drives business success.

Even if you feel comfortable with your  backup person, can he lead?  Just  like a second-string quarterback, you never know if he can score when  the  game is on the  line. In evaluating your  current backup person, ask yourself these tough questions: How will he handle the  pressure? Can he motivate the  team? Can he make the  tough calls? If you’re unsure how that person would handle these situations, it’s probably time to look outside your  organization — in addition to considering if you can develop his leadership skill.


Write a job description.


As you consider your  options for a key position, it’s smart practice to write  up a solid  job description that details the  skills, attributes and  behaviors that will be required for success.

Then,  measure your  internal candidates against these benchmarks. Are you confident these candidates can do the  job, or are you selecting them for the wrong  reasons?

I have  witnessed many situations in which a good,  long- term employee was promoted

beyond his skill level. This is not good  for the  business or that employee.


Benchmarks are best.


In today’s fast and  fragmented feed manufacturing business, solid production data and  benchmarks are a must. Not only does this  information provide a leg up to a new manager, but  it’s hard to imagine any successful feed operation running without these data.

An up-to-date production recordkeeping system should include tons produced and  the efficiency of each process. Add to that the  cost per  ton  and the  price fluctuations of each process, and  you will have a quick  snapshot of current operations and  potential problem areas.

As the  new manager starts work on budget and  profitability projections, he will benefit immensely from easy  access to the  production cost structure. These records and  benchmarks will enable him to quickly and  accurately assess current performance and  focus  on continuous improvement by providing real-time visibility to each production site  every day.

Once you accept that the decision to plan  for succession is fraught with irrational, political and  emotional dynamics, you have overcome the  biggest roadblock. Now, move  on.

Decide  where your  best opportunities for leaders lie. Determine the best way to get started. Pick one thing  you can start right  now — and just do it.




WHEN commenting on performance, use actual data, where possible (e.g.,  from measured KPIs); you should be prepared to discuss any discrepancies between the information you have  collected and what the employees brought with them or submitted as a part of the self-evaluation.

Make sure to note  where employees exceed expectations, and thank them for their attention in these areas.  Then, help  them evaluate how the skills  and attitudes used  in those areas can be put to use to help them improve elsewhere. Finally,  have  the employee sign the performance review so the document can be included in his or her official file.



Next steps


With the performance review over,  what comes next? Looking at the long term, decide how you will evaluate the goals just set forth. How often will you be monitoring progress and conducting informal “check ups” to help the employee be succesful? In the short term, consider your own performance. Where items were identi?ed as needing improvement, are there  ways you could  improve your management style  to help the employee realize his or her potential? As a manager or leader, have  you equipped yourself with the necessary skill sets?

If you are reviewing the performance of someone who can successfully complete a job that you cannot, consider whether you have  spent  enough time walking in their shoes. Last, did the review, along with the reviews of other employees, identify any common areas where resources are lacking or could  be improved?


Remember, annual  reviews are about the overall performance, not the employees themselves. If this is clear  to the employees, they will be more likely to be active  participants, which, in turn, makes  the reviews that much more effective. Strive to keep  reviews positive and constructive, and they will benefit both your employees and your business. If your company has not The technology is also supported by Bratney Companies services of design, construction, and equipment installation to maximize the results of your investment.



Author: BILL ROSENSTIEL – Cargill’s Feed Management Systems

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