Succession Planning: The Challenges

A little while ago, we wrote a column for Governing magazine about succession planning. The thrust of our work was that only a small fraction of governmental entities are sufficiently prepared to replace employees from within when they quit or retire – and that those that do tend to see very positive results.


Ted Zaleski, the Director of Management and Budget in Carroll County, Maryland

We were grateful to receive a note from Ted Zaleski, the Director of Management and Budget in Carroll County, Maryland, which has a population of about 170,000 according to the 2010 census, and adjoins Baltimore County.


As he wrote, it’s “pretty hard to argue against succession planning though there is a case to be made for ‘new blood’. I think most local governments would think good succession planning would be desirable.”


But then Zaleski went on to write that “implementation can be difficult,” and provided a list of some things that can get in the way:


  • No candidate. You can have a perfectly competent staff without anyone being right for the next job.

  • Uncertain need. We will all need to be replaced someday, but when is more certain in some situations than others.

  • Other opportunities. People who want to move up might not stick around until the opportunity opens where they are.

  • Unhappiness with the current arrangement. I can think of people who were great candidates to move up, but left because they didn’t want to work for the person in the position.

  • No interest. Sometimes an attractive candidate doesn’t want the job. Sometimes the pay increase often doesn’t seem worth the extra headaches, especially if you become an at-will employee.

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