by Martha Heller

The Last Word: Succession Planning

Oct 01, 20062 mins
IT Leadership

The succession planning column missed a key point, according to Les Viszlai, CIO of Services Engineering IT for General Electric. “Succession planning is much easier to do in a large company,” he writes. “More opportunities are available to cross train. In smaller companies, IT staff turns over only when the person in the ’next’ role retires or takes a new position. My experience is that smaller companies don’t do bench planning very well.”

To test this hypothesis, I asked smaller company CIOs for their take. Succession planning is tougher at smaller companies, agrees Craig Halterman, CIO of $373 million Axcelis Technologies. “The opportunities that were provided to me at GE and Dow Chemical are more than I can provide my staff,” he says. “The key to succession planning in a midsize company is being strategic. Focus your planning on areas that have tight integration with the business, and acknowledge that you might have acceptable resource losses in the more commodity-like areas.”

Tony Young, CIO of $267 million software maker Informatica, disagrees. “The common thread for both a midsize organization and a large enterprise is dedicating time to developing the right people,” he says. “Succession planning is part of how we manage our organization. When setting quarterly objectives, we talk about succession planning with our managers to ensure we are developing our people appropriately.”

Whether you are the CIO of General Motors or of a $50 million startup, you want employees to believe they have a future under your leadership. And the number of r¿m¿I received after posting this column online indicates that—regardless of your organization’s size—you all have some work to do!