News & Press: IoDSA in the Press

COVID-19 crisis points to the need for robust succession plans

Tuesday, 28 April 2020   (3 Comments)
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Although it’s recommended in King IV, succession planning is often neglected because it’s an uncomfortable subject. The COVID-19 crisis should act as a wake-up call for organisations to ensure not only that they have a plan to govern an orderly succession for key senior posts, but also an emergency back-up plan, says Parmi Natesan, CEO of the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA).

“The current crisis should remind governing bodies that in addition to key management positions like the CEO and CFO, succession planning should also cover key board positions, including the chair of the board and chairs of board committees,” she says. “For example, the current COVID-19 crisis raises all sorts of issues for corporate succession plans. What if the CEO contracts the virus, or the CFO is forced to self-isolate? Organisations need to have not only a long-term succession plan but an emergency backup plan as well.”

She argues that a crisis such as this places unusual strains on the entire leadership team. One contributing factor is the protracted nature of the crisis, others include the need to completely reorganise the workforce to enable remote working, adopt new management practices suitable to a dispersed workforce, and conduct an urgent review of the business model and strategy. Moreover, all of these would have to be continuously reviewed as the crisis unfolds.

At the same time, of course, leadership is more important than ever during a crisis. If any of the leadership team is forced to take time out (because of overstraining or actual illness), the impact is extremely pronounced—as we saw when the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with the virus and the Foreign Secretary took on his role.

“Organisations should have a full succession plan for each senior management position, which includes both an emergency and a long-term plan,” she says. “It is also worth pointing out that the emergency plan is likely to nominate an in-house resource, and effort should be put into giving those individuals the mentoring and training needed, including crisis response management.”


Lomalanga V. Matsebula (Dlamini) says...
Posted Monday, 22 June 2020
What a humbling wake-up call indeed. Parmi is spot on. The issue of succession planning is never an ongoing board agenda item. As pointed out, it is somehow an uncomfortable subject. I think the COVID -19 crisis has really brought about an automatic solution. No board member or management team, can have an excuse to view the issue of succession planning as a threat to one's position in an organisation. Indeed COVID can hit any target. It is not even an isolated threat. The global community, industries, and family units are being threatened. I like Parmi's suggestion of looking at this issue, as a long- term and emergency backup plan. That is the best way to approach it. It is an effective tool to manage business continuity plans. Thank you for IoDSA's ever forward thinking approach, on corporate governance and best practice recommendations.
Eugenia X. Kula-Ameyaw says...
Posted Saturday, 20 June 2020
We should embrace this wake up call to succession planning. Without the Board Chair being sick or have a family member affected by Covid. The impact I have realized is that most Directors could be double booked. This is worse with state entities where the structures like Portfolio Committee will set up oversight meetings. Then the Chair of the Board amongst others is expected to attend that meeting. If the board or Committee is holding a scheduled meeting then that meeting can not be postponed because the chairperson is not available. Can you imagine an impact where the board or Chair has no deputy or where the culture of succession is not practice. This season requires that boards think outside the box and adapt quickly
Lomalanga V. Matsebula (Dlamini) says...
Posted Wednesday, 29 April 2020
How true. Indeed this is a wake-up call for organisations as Parmi has stated. Succession Plans are a rare Board agenda item. But it is highly possible that the COVID -19 crisis will nudge every board /governing body towards acceptance of a succession plan, as part of King IV recommendation that it is an enabling tool in case of an unexpected event such as the COVID - 19. We need to admit that the effects of the crisis are yet to be felt by boards. I have been analysing the play out of the events of COVID - 19 quietly. My conclusion is that all organisations, in particular, governing bodies will one way or the other, start appreciating King IV principles and recommendations. This experience is cutting through integrity trait of individuals, families, communities, organisations of any size, Industries and professional bodies. Leaders will have to re look at decisions ever made. The outcome of Ethical Culture as recommended in Principle 1 of King IV will become the corner stone.