Carlsen, Gretzky, and You

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen can think five to ten moves ahead, with about five variations on each of those. I can barely figure out my move, much less the response of my opponent. I guess I have the element of surprise going for my chess game.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky is quoted saying: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

The ability to see the future and then make it happen is an element of success. In business we have the opportunity to do that with our personnel decisions. In fact, we have the responsibility to do that. Without the right people and skill-sets we cannot create the vision we seek.

Studies report that a majority of organizations believe succession planning is of utmost importance, yet few prioritize it or (self-described) do it well. The vast majority slip into replacement planning; e.g., “We have an opening coming. Who should we put in that role?”

As with Carlsen and Gretzky, the best make decisions based on the strategy for the future. That is succession planning. With my chess game, it’s one move at a time. That is replacement planning.

The distinction?

Succession planning is tied to the business strategy. It always proactively addresses key roles and responsibilities, and any anticipated or needed departures. It identifies new capabilities that the organization must obtain, and ensures they are in place.

Replacement planning is short term decisions about how to fill a known opening. It has little if any relationship with strategy. Consider succession planning forward-looking and replacement planning now-looking.

As the fast-talking guy says at the end of every financial advertisement, past performance is no indicator of future performance. In our case, it is because the requisite behaviors are often vastly different. The job of yesterday’s facility manager, IT director, or product development engineer bears little resemblance to the requirements of those in 2020.

I’ve advised top executives NOT to promote people based on past performance, but rather how well they would fit with future, desired performance. That’s why promoting your best salesperson to sales manager usually ruins two jobs. Most salesmen work best in autonomy, while a sales manager cannot afford to do that.

As manufacturing moves toward more automation, data capture and analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), expectations and potential of every role in the company change.

Walmart is now requiring some suppliers to begin using blockchain. Yes, the same Walmart that drove much of barcoding and RFID. If traceability is important in your industry, blockchain is coming soon to a supply chain near you.

In many cases, we don’t understand what the new specialists actually do. What’s a data scientist vs. a business analyst vs. a data manager vs. a data analyst? Knowing where to begin is part of succession planning. Hiring someone just to get started is both replacement planning, and unlikely to have a happy ending for either party.

Without a real business strategy – not just sales and market targets – and without an operations strategy – not simply reactionary efforts of “get order, fill order”—succession planning may be in your future, but it’s not your current condition.

Did you ever consider succession planning a core competency that your manufacturing company must develop? Without both a business and an operations strategy to anchor decision-making, replacement planning is your future—for as long as that is.

The economic world is changing faster than many leaders and employees can adjust. It’s not enough to develop human resources to meet today’s needs.

We have to skate to where the puck is going to be.

As published by AME Target Magazine