Executive Transitions and Emergency Planning

No one wants to consider the thought of a tragic car accident. No one wants to consider the thought that such a car accident could take the lives of the top leaders of a nonprofit on their way home from a training conference. No one wants to consider what that loss of management would do to our nonprofit organizations, the programs and the clients. Yet, Bob Marsenich of Glacier HR Services asked the attendees of our recent Brown Bag workshop, Executive Transitions and Emergency Planning, to consider just that scenario.

No one wants to have this discussion. Yet, these discussions are key to the ongoing success of our organizations.

He suggested three questions to start the discussion on organizational emergency planning:
1) What would be the major impact of the loss of three key people or positions: executive director, chief financial officer, and program director?
2) How prepared is the organization to respond to such an event?
3) What would be the first three things that must be done to stabilize the organization?

Oh, and, by the way, how will you know the passwords to key accounts and equipment? And, how will your Board chair be notified in the event of this tragedy?

Along with these discussions, it is also important to talk about the long-term transitions that will occur in each of our organizations. Bob outlined the transition planning process:

1) Define the organizational vision for the future.
2) Identify the internal competencies of the organization and the key leaders.
3) Analyze the gaps between the vision and the current competencies.
4) Identify new competencies needed in a future leader.
5) Do risk analysis of developing and grooming a current employee versus hiring from the outside. If grooming, the employee must commit to training and developing the new competencies. If hiring from outside, begin identifying potential leaders on a wish list.
6) Plan the transition with regular check-ins to assure the work is progressing.

Finally, once you begin up these difficult topics, don’t let go!


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