Many businesses have spent the last several months worried about their short- and long-term survival due to the economic shutdown.  After organizations deal with the immediate needs of working remotely and revenue preservation, however, it’s a great time to address some of the other events that can quickly turn profitable companies upside down.  This month, we’ll cover three of them.

When people talk about succession planning, they’re typically talking about how to ensure the organization survives the departure, especially the unexpected departure, of the owner or one of a handful of top executives.  Losing one of these people without a plan can lead to disastrous results for a company.

However, there are plenty of people who perform critical tasks within a business who aren’t at the top of the organization.  In fact, losing a mid-level employee can be a bigger risk at some companies. While many organizations take the time to put together C-Level succession plans, no company does it for everyone.  After someone leaves is a bad time to discover that a process that person owned was undocumented and is unknown by anyone else.

Jenga blocks

Obviously, a detailed succession plan does not need to be created for every employee at a company.  But, by documenting each employee’s tasks, using cross-training to develop institutional knowledge and eventually delegating more senior-level tasks to high-achievers, you can insulate yourself from losses far beyond the executive team.

Document Tasks

Have each supervisor ask their employees to write down a list of every process they perform more than a couple of times a year.  There are likely to be some surprises in the list – tasks that predate the supervisor, such as collecting and archiving data that isn’t even being used by the original audience anymore.  Getting rid of these tasks is a bonus benefit.

Comparing each employee’s list is likely to reveal that responsibilities for many tasks are shared by several members of the team, even if there isn’t documentation for them. Those should be documented, but not until after higher-priority tasks. 

Some tasks will only be owned by one or two people.  In these cases, work with the task owners to build a calendar for documenting them, and for periodically checking to ensure they’re still up-to-date.  Even documented tasks can become undocumented ones over time if the task changes slightly every few months.

Develop Employees

Tasks that are only owned by one employee offer a great opportunity for cross-training.  As a part of team members’ professional development, encourage each task owner to make sure that at least two other people in the organization know how to perform all their major tasks.  And while it’s great for task owners to train others directly, it’s also good to have at least one person try to complete the task using only the task’s documentation – in case that’s all someone has at a later point.

Delegate for Growth

Supervisors can begin to delegate their lowest-value tasks to members of their teams who have completed all their cross-training and also show leadership potential.  This frees up the supervisor to take on higher value tasks, while also providing new growth opportunities to the supervisor’s top employees.  Those employees can in turn begin to offload ownership of their own tasks to new talent when it comes through the door.

In addition to providing task coverage across the company, this also allows supervisors to organically grow their value to the organization over time.  When the company is ready to add new roles, there’s more likely to be a natural fit ready for promotion.

To learn how WingSwept can help your organization make better use of technology, call us at 919-460-7011 or email us at