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A 5 1/2 minute video explains what Workforce Development and Succession Planning (WDSP) is (and is not).

To Recap Succession Planning is

  • Doing today's work with a strategic eye on tomorrow's possibilities.

  • Not replacement or retirement planning.

  • Not just HR or leadership's "problem". It is everyone's "opportunity".

The Trifecta of Succession Planning

  • Career Development 
  • Planning
  • Knowledge Management

Done well, WDSP increases equity while ensuring the least interruption in delivering vital services to our community.

This is done by making time to think strategically, sharing with colleagues what we already know how to do well, and ensuring that all staff have developmental opportunities at every phase of their career. 


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We are all capable of and responsible for asking critical questions about how we do our work and how to ensure that we don't lose mission-critical knowledge. The first step is distinguishing between having the time vs. making the time to do Succession Planning.

If, for some reason, you don't think Succession Planning involves you, ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. Can I guarantee that I will be in my current role indefinitely?
  2. If I left, would I rather my colleagues celebrate all I "left behind" to help them do their work or curse all I "didn't share"?

Since: 1) None of us can make that guarantee and 2) most folks would rather be celebrated for making life easier for others, Succession Planning involves all of us.

Rather than starting with the question "When do I have the time?", consider asking:

When do I already do professional development and knowledge management?

When can I make time to document that work?


Step One: Map Out Your (Fiscal) Year           
Calendaring

We do professional development, knowledge management, and, yes, Succession Planning every day as part of our work but we may not call it WDSP. Instead, we use terms like: providing backup, onboarding/offboarding, temporary assignments, cross-training, performance management reviews, training, maintaining certifications, and a myriad of other ways in which we get work done.

The first step is to document a "typical year" knowing that it won't be an exact science, nor that one year will perfectly mirror the next (or the last).

Multnomah County follows a July 1st - June 30th Fiscal Year so we use the four quarters of that year--July-September, October-December, January-March, April-June--as our template for this process. We've found that thinking in quarters (or seasons) helps people see the interrelatedness of both their work and the "downtimes" that exist (it really does!) when they can document that work.

This is the Fiscal Year Map we use at Multnomah County:  WDSP Fiscal Year Map (Multnomah County) (65.23 KB)


Step Two: Identify Mission-Critical Tasks and Roles           
Sharing Wisdom

We all have them, we all know them, and we all recognize them. They are the "Go-To People" in our offices, the colleagues with deep institutional knowledge.

  • Who do you call?
  • How do you streamline a given process?
  • What's the code for _____?
  • Who regularly puts out fires? Who regularly starts fires (in a good way)?
  • Who's the only person on the team who can ____ ? (this last question is particularly important to answer!)

These are also often "Communication Hubs" on your team.

  • Who manages a lot of external relationships?
  • Who is a key point of contact when someone outside your team calls or emails?
  • Who takes responsibility for communicating out to collaborators, colleagues, and the community? 

Is the answer to a lot of these questions "ME!"? If so, we really need you to make succession planning a success.

The Succession Planning Questionnaire offers an excellent set of questions to help you think about a given position (your own, a colleague who reports to you, a colleague who you know is leaving, etc.). 

Succession Planning Questionnaire (47 KB) 

Succession Planning Questionnaire (38.75 KB) (Microsoft Word)


Step Three: Create a Knowledge Management Tracking System           
Tracking System

At Multnomah County, we use part of the 3-Step Solution designed by the Steve Trautman Co. to identify the mission-critical knowledge each member of a work unit possesses. Steve Trautman calls this tool the Knowledge Silo Matrix (we call it the Knowledge Management Tool or KMT).

Beyond the fancy spreadsheets, the goal of this step is to identify and then prioritize cross-training, mentoring, job shadowing, and other forms of knowledge management practices to ensure that your most critical know how isn't all invested in a few (or one!) staff member.

This is also an equity tool as it identifies both staff members who may be under-trained or under-utilized and developmental opportunities that exist through cross-training and mentoring.    


Step Four: Use Supervision, Performance Review Cycles, and Team Strategic Planning Time for WDSP           
Strategic Planning

Tie your succession planning, career management, and workforce development to your work unit, department, and/or organization-wide strategic plan.

Use your performance review time to advocate for skills and abilities you'd like to acquire, tasks on which you'd like to train others, and ways in which you'd like to grow for the betterment of yourself, your team, and your organization.

Remember the three Career Management Questions from the Succession Planning video:

  1. What do you want to accomplish this year?
  2. Where do you want to grow?
  3. What do you need to succeed?

Multnomah County staff: Use the Performance Planning and Review Competencies Menu to guide how you think about your professional development. (This link will only work for current county employees).