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Opportunity for Johns Hopkins University to Leverage Enhanced Succession Management Strategies

The Office of Talent Management and Organization Development are responsible for designing and implementing a number of human resource processes to support the university’s mission and goals. One such process is Succession Management. The university realizes that it cannot passively wait for the future; rather we must proactively plan for the future by investing our time and energy in order to ensure the continuity of key talent and leadership roles. Succession Management ensures the continued effective performance of our organization by establishing a process to develop and replace key staff over time. During the last year, TMOD has piloted an enhanced version of Succession Management.

What is Succession Management?

Succession Management, also referred to as Succession Planning, is a systematic process used to identify and ultimately develop personnel to ensure that an organization has a pipeline of talent to fill key and critical positions, and it is a component of TMOD’s integrated talent management strategy.

Key positions are defined as those positions that are essential to the organizations mission and provide leadership or skills that are not easily replaced. Key positions are senior level positions within the organization. Critical positions are defined as positions that are essential to the organization and if left vacant would adversely affect a department or schools ability to fulfill its mission. The difference between critical positions and key positions is, critical positions may be at any level within the organization, but key positions are at a senior level organizationally.

The primary task of succession management is to plan a sequence of job assignments, moves, or rotations so that candidates for key positions are prepared and have the necessary experience and background for a role in advance of actual need. This prior identification may involve opportunities for mentoring and developmental activities to improve candidate’s readiness to succeed to specific positions.

It also provides concrete decision making information necessary to minimize the chance of poor selections or the adverse impacts of unforeseen vacancies that can disrupt the continuity of management. The goal of succession planning is to increase the availability of experienced staff, capable of assuming key roles as those roles become available.

Key Components of Succession Management

The current steps of the enhanced Succession Management Process consists of the following:

  • Identify key and critical positions
  • Identify competencies necessary for role
  • Identify and assess leadership capabilities
  • Conduct talent reviews
  • Implementation of development plans
  • Monitor the progress against defined measures and update as appropriate

To build a talent pipeline leaders must reach down in the organization for capable people and help bring them along utilizing a variety of techniques. They should consider techniques such as on-the-job-coaching, on the job enrichment, task force assignments, to name a few. Each of these development strategies has enormous appeal and tremendous value, if executed well These development strategies can be easily integrated into employee development plans as part of the enhanced performance management process called P3 (Performance Partnership Process) that has been rolling out across the institution over the last several years.

There are several critical aspects necessary for succession planning to be effective in your organization:

  • A commitment from senior leaders, and alignment with organizational strategy.
  • Behavior based competency models that provide a blueprint for high-performance now and for the future.
  • An effective performance management system that effectively identifies and documents high performers
  • Assessment methods that measure how well-prepared individuals are to assume additional, or specialized, responsibility.
  • An individual development planning process that helps to narrow the present competency gaps to the competencies required for future success.
  • A measurement method that evaluates how well the succession program is functioning over time.

TMOD is developing a protocol for using Succession Management throughout the university. An advisory group will be established in the near future to assist with this work. Further communication regarding this effort will be made available in the coming months. For additional information please contact Debbie Sampson, Director of Talent Management and Organization Development at 443-997-6809, or via email at

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