Designing the process of leadership transition

Transition planning can be one of the more complex challenges that firms face. Effective plans begin by determining the gap between a firm’s current state and the future it envisions for itself. SPONSORED CONTENT

July 21, 2014 |
Steven Burns

Photo: iosphere via

Who are the leaders that will shape the future of your firm?

That’s an essential question for AEC firms to resolve, writes Greenway Group Principal Bob Fisher in a Design Intelligence post.

“Leaders can attract and inspire the right teams to make great work in a well-managed enterprise, or they can create an environment of mistrust and mediocrity that brings down a formerly thriving practice,” he says.

But transition planning can be one of the more complex challenges that firms face. Effective plans begin by determining the gap between a firm’s current state and the future it envisions for itself.

Here are some key questions he suggests asking:

  • Do we have the right leadership organization to accomplish our strategy?
  • Do we have the right leadership roles and positions in place?
  • Do we have the right purpose descriptions for our leadership roles and positions?
  • What are the key indicators of success for each role?
  • What are the gaps that could prevent us from implementing our strategy?

Answers to these and other questions will help determine whether to pursue a significant redesign of your organizational structure or a simple realignment of roles.

“The gap analysis and organizational assessment exposes redundancy or lack of clarity in leadership roles,” Fisher continues. “The implementation phase provides an excellent opportunity to address these issues.”

Implementation frequently includes a combination of people-focused initiatives such as:

  • Leadership identification: selecting candidates based on evidence of innate potential.
  • Individual development plans: customized programs that equip emerging and future leaders with the knowledge, skills and abilities to lead.
  • Professional/executive coaching: a complement to knowledge and skill training that synthesizes other types of learning and develops the whole person as a leader.
  • Structured or informal mentoring: conscious effort to transfer knowledge and wisdom on key topics like leadership, management, business development and culture.
  • External talent attraction and acquisition: finding talent to fill gaps that cannot be addressed by developing internal staff.

Successful plans also account for transitioning client relationships and maintaining alignment and support among staff who are not moving into leadership roles.

“Leadership transition can be mistaken for a one-time deal in which current leaders can rest once the right bodies are in place,” Fisher writes. “However, top firms see leadership transition in the same light as strategic planning or communication: it’s an ongoing cycle and natural part of running the organization.” 

Read more from Design Intelligence. 

Editor's note: This is sponsored content. The text was provided by the sponsor company. 

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, and during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After founding his own software company, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development for the company’s groundbreaking project accounting solution, BQE Core.

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