If your organization has long-standing and effective top senior management team members (CEO, Executive Director, COO, CFO, etc.) approaching the end of their tenure and you have a thoughtful transition plan in place – good for you. However, even the best plans might need adjustments, considering that recent circumstances have changed materially for most organizations. Consequently, reviewing your senior executive transition plan to take advantage of new opportunities and adapt to new hurdles is a most prudent course of action.
The following are some key factors that should be considered to improve your senior executive transition plan in light of the new reality we are facing as a result of this crisis:
Remote Work Environment – This is the trickiest issue to consider. Most likely your transition plan was put in place well before the pandemic started. Knowing that remote work is a new norm, exit strategies for long-tenured executives could be altered to best leverage this reality. High-performing executives that are relocating and retiring could be candidates for delayed transition, since relocation of top employees is not necessarily the barrier that it once was. While executives that do not perform well in a virtual management platform might be candidates for accelerated transition.
Changing Programs and Operations – Most nonprofit organizations are experiencing shifts in programs and day-to-day operations. Your senior executives may or may not be adaptable to these changes. Thus, it is important to re-evaluate whether your current executive team is the best fit to lead these efforts to shift and re-position the organization for the future.
Crisis Management to New Normal – How your organization navigates its senior executive transition plan depends largely on whether your organization views this pandemic as a short-term pause or a long-term shift. If you believe the crisis will be over for your organization in the next 6 to 12 months, you should stay the course with your executive transition plan, with maybe a slight delay. If your organization believes the crisis will have an extended economic and/or strategic impact with a long period of uncertainty, this would be a strong argument to re-visit your executive transition plan and perhaps make significant changes.
Inventory of Candidates – This crisis has impacted the pool of potential executive candidates. Some organizations may find that more top candidates are available, while others may find it more difficult to locate qualified recruits. You must take this into consideration. Evaluate how it will affect the timing and search process for new candidates. Reach out to your transition task force and outside professional resources to determine if you should accelerate or delay your transition plan.
Planning Tip – Most likely you have a transition working group or task force. Get them involved with discussing these new opportunities and hurdles brought on by the pandemic. Regular communications during uncertain times is critical as changes are occurring rapidly. Your discussions should also include how to communicate with your Board and staff, so all are informed and encouraged to participate in the success of the transition.
For any comprehensive plan of action, having updates and re-evaluation points built into the process will strengthen outcomes and increase rates of success.