Jerry Kelsheimer Dec 1, 2020 6:49:27 AM 9 min read


Did you catch the first blog post in this three-part series on succession? If not, head here to read it.

In that first article, we discussed the relevance of succession planning. Now, we’re turning our attention to the “how” as we highlight six steps to ensuring successful succession transitions.

Although specific circumstances may vary, successfully executed succession scenarios tend to have certain elements in common.  If you understand and effectively execute the steps below, your probability of a smooth transition will increase significantly. Moreover, if you set out with intention and formality, you’ll be even more likely to succeed.

  1. Personal Reflection

Good succession plans start with meaningful reflection relating both to business and personal priorities.  In preparing for transition, it’s important for leaders to “get their minds right.”  It can be hard to see someone else in your seat.  That is an emotional thing.  It’s for that reason, many simply deny, deflect, and defer the issue of succession.  Spending time thinking about life beyond the current role is an important step in preparing the practice for transition.  Also, it’s important to keep in mind that preparing for succession and envisioning what it will be like to move on to a new phase in life professionally and personally does not have to mean you are committed to a specific timeline.  It simply means that you will be ready when the time comes.

  1. Determine What You Need and When

Understanding what you need and what the practice will need are both important steps in advancing your objective.  On a personal level, detailed financial planning for individuals (and sometimes for team members in a group) is an imperative.  This affects timeline as well as the tactics you may employ.  Go beyond financial planning and consider what you will want your days and weeks to look like at different points in the future.  Quality of life and lifestyle are important considerations in charting your course.  As it relates to your practice, think of what you need to accomplish to ensure smooth transition in terms of what tasks actually need to be done as opposed to simply considering which people and positions may need to be replaced over time.  What critical competencies will be required to ensure continuity?  The skills and organizational design demanded by the future may be very different than what was required in the past.  It can be very difficult to replace individual personalities, styles, and specific positions.  When simplified to consideration of the competencies and capacities required, the task often becomes easier.  Now is a great time to consider changes in roles and structure.

  1. Document Your Plan

What’s thought is not as likely to be executed as what is said. What’s said is not as likely to become reality as what is written down.  Take the time to document what needs to happen by when.  For all critical roles, both clinical and administrative, establish a timeline and objective.  The timeline likely includes such things as communication, action to be taken regarding talent moves, and overlapping periods of development and assimilation.  Objective should include documented competencies that may be required in a successor with consideration given to whether those competencies will exist immediately or if they will be developed in a successor over time.  Documented succession plans tend to be living documents that, in ideal circumstances, are developed years before a transition event. As such, they may very well evolve over time.        

  1. Talent Development and Acquisition

A practice that is full of “ready now” candidates who could immediately fill the positions that are critical to continuity, performance, and value creation is a rare exception.  As such, you likely will need to look both inside and outside the walls for individuals who have the potential to fill necessary requirements.  Relative to internal talent, an objective look at existing team member performance and potential will help you determine who may be ready to perform at a higher level when needed.  Designing development plans to expose future leaders to the practical and emotional requirements of next level assignments should become a part of organizational DNA.  These plans may require formal training, or simply heightened level of exposure to new tasks and responsibilities.  You may also need to look outside the practice for both competency and capacity.  In these cases, your timelines may drive conscious determination of whether to hire at lower levels to develop future leaders or to hire “ready now” talent.  When hiring for succession, consider culture as well as competency and be sure to provide adequate time for organizational assimilation whenever possible.

  1. Execute with Intent

Once you have a plan, the real work starts.  As we’ve discussed, execution of sound succession strategies typically happens over a period of many months and, ideally, years.  Establish a rhythm for review of your progress.  Invest time in future leaders, provide objective feedback, and let go of things, allowing them to do their jobs as your timeline dictates.  When things aren’t working according to plan, pause to assess why.  Evolve your approach as necessary.

  1. Seek Assistance

Although limited in number, the steps above have nuances and intricacies that are complicated.  They take time, and you have limited capacity.  Acknowledge this as you commit to your journey.  Many practices utilize outside resources to assist in the process to ensure that the right level of organization and discipline is applied.  Talk to others who have dealt with the succession issue.  Learn from their successes and mistakes.

The investment of resources in succession is both significant and necessary to protect the clinical enterprise.  Don’t underestimate it.  Acknowledge, though, that the financial and emotional return on succession done right is significant and well worth what you will put into it.  Plan ahead to protect your future, ensure continuity in care – and cash flow.  Act now to position your practice for alternatives including continued growth, maximum valuation in sale, or simply maintenance of the important role you play in the lives of your patients and employees.

This was part two of a three-part series on healthcare succession. In the final article in the series, learn the critical elements of a sound succession plan.

Jerry L. Kelsheimer is President of Medic Management Group / MMG Healthcare Solutions.  His background includes extensive work in areas including business advisory, leadership development, strategic planning, process improvement, and transaction support.  MMG is a national provider of consulting services and back office administrative support to independent and system owned physician practice groups.  Additionally, MMG has been formally recognized as a multi-year Northeast Ohio Top Workplaces award winner.