President George W. Bush: Resources for the President's Team The White House
President George W. Bush meets with Dan Bartlett, center, and Josh Bolten in the Oval Office Jan. 9, 2003.  White House photo by Eric Draper.
The Deputy Director for Mgmt
PMA updates, best practices, and general information.
Grading Implementation of the PMA.
Human Capital
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Commercial Services Management
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Improving Financial Performance
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Performance Improvement
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Sharing Best Practices
Stories of achieving breaktrough results in government.
The Five Initatives

Winning the Game with Succession Planning

Imagine if you will--two football teams meet in the first game of the new season. The competition is fierce--the teams are well-matched and each wants badly to beat their rival. Suddenly, the quarterback for the home team is injured in a crushing sack. As he limps off the field, the coach turns to the bench to signal his back-up quarterback to take over. But there IS no back-up quarterback; when the front office cut back on recruiting last season, most of the second-string jobs were left vacant. The only player available to fill in is an extra fullback--who has never thrown a pass before.

Of course this is just a story, but it illustrates the importance of succession planning. Organizations need to plan for their future leadership needs. It takes time and investment to recruit and develop future leaders so that responsibilities can be handed off smoothly and easily when the time comes.

Not so long ago the specter of looming retirements prompted the Federal Government to evaluate its own players. Fortunately, the gloomiest projections failed to materialize--but succession planning is not just about preparing for retirements. People leave their positions for many reasons and succession planning helps agencies prepare for the loss of expertise and institutional knowledge that can happen anytime.

The focus on human capital management has encouraged agencies to begin developing succession plans so they can be better prepared for whatever the future may bring. Like any playbook - for succession planning to work within an agency it needs solid planning, top-level commitment, planned investment, and managerial accountability. Many agencies have taken the opportunity to move beyond crisis management and instituted effective human capital strategies to address future losses while recruiting and retaining a high-quality, diverse workforce:

Promising Practices in Agencies
Department of Energy
Department of Labor
Office of Personnel Management
Social Security Administration
Department of Transportation
Department of Veterans Affairs

But some agencies need help. That's where we come in. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is launching the Senior Executive Service Federal Candidate Development Program (FedCDP), a comprehensive preparatory package of class work, e-training and real-life experiences for employees seeking to join the federal government's next generation of leaders. This 14-month immersion program will involve participants in educational forums and give them unrivaled field experiences, including residential executive training and working sessions with White House and cabinet officials. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates who then become certified by the Quality Review Board (QRB) will be eligible for immediate and non-competitive entry into the SES, the government's top cadre of managers.

The FedCDP complements existing agency succession planning programs and provides an avenue for small agencies to train and develop their senior leaders. Its curriculum is geared toward "value-based leadership" and provides participants with continuous and intensive feedback on their leadership development. The FedCDP will play an important role in ensuring that vital government programs will continue to receive expert management and attention. The program will be especially helpful for developing leaders in professions and disciplines that are important to many agencies.

There are two components of the FedCDP:

The classroom component will bring program participants from multiple agencies together in a residential learning setting.

The on-the-job learning component will use developmental assignments and mentoring relationships to expand the candidate's perspectives on government and the role of senior executives in public policy formulation

Our goal for this unique program is to tap into both the existing talent base within federal agencies as well as to attract highly qualified individuals from outside the Federal service. The program is designed to deliver polished, thoughtful and qualified men and women to manage some of the nation's most important programs. The curriculum that OPM and its partner agencies have produced will encourage lively discussion and debate, while encouraging program candidates to think outside the box as they contemplate current and future management issues. It will be one way we can ensure that we will have talented players ready to take over and keep the ball moving. Working together, we can meet the challenge before us, and assure a legacy of leadership excellence.

Kay Coles James
U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Agency Promising Practices
Department of Energy
  • Developed 9-15 month SES CDP program, and Executive Coaches for high potential candidates not selected into the Program.
  • Established a Mentoring Program for SES Executives to mentor high potential GS-13 through GS-15 employees. New managerial rotations to provide supervisors/managers with field and headquarters experiences.
  • New competency based Corporate Supervisory and Managerial Training and Curriculum program providing three different levels of training for supervisors and managers. Combines on-line learning, traditional classroom courses, seminars, speaking forums, videos, and suggested readings.
  • Managers using a succession planning/workforce management model to help them create and sustain pools of well-qualified candidates.
Department of Labor
  • Uses available workforce restructuring tools, such as early retirements, to correct skills imbalances and create leadership opportunities.
  • Renewed its senior executive development and succession program.
  • Expanded the DOL Mentoring program to include GS 11-13 mentees (with GS 13-SES mentors) to support succession planning and retain critical knowledge.
  • Recruiting candidates with business experience or MBA's, using 2-year excepted appointments to place them in a customized intensive two-year rotational program.
  • Redesigned its Supervisory and Managerial Training Program and Management Development Program (that provides eligibility for noncompetitive promotion) to identify high potential employees and prepare them with leadership competencies.
Office of Personnel Management
  • Successfully implemented a 30-day model to recruit and select diverse SES candidates.
  • Developed three-tier competency-based leadership development program including Mid- Career, Executive Potential and SES Candidate Development programs; training and development curriculum for new supervisors.
  • Planning a new mentoring approach to structured workforce development program that will enhance professional skills, increase institutional knowledge, capitalize on leadership competencies, and provide nurturing relationships that support personal and professional growth and organizational effectiveness.
Social Security Administration
  • Addressing predicted loss of employees in leadership positions through succession analysis, data-driven strategic human resource planning, use of hiring/retention flexibilities, filling vacancies before incumbents leave, aggressive use of developmental programs, managing the retirement wave through early-out and other flexibilities, targeting critical positions and using understudies.
  • Three-tiered competency-based leadership development program focused on: leading people; interpersonal and communication skills; business acumen; achieving results. Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program for GS-15s; Advanced Leadership Program for GS-13s & 14s; Leadership Development Program for GS-9-12s.
  • Rigorous selection process and professional development and training through mentoring, rotational assignments and core training sessions.
Department of Transportation
  • Developed model depicting a leadership pipeline, rather than focusing on one level of leadership.
  • Model focuses on five primary levels of leadership intended to reflect a typical leadership progression.
  • Engaged in a number of leadership initiatives including an Executive Trend Analysis, Executive Coaching, Mentoring, and Supervisory Leadership.
  • Effective succession planning with leadership development through experiential learning (rotations, targeted reassignments, action learning, coaching and mentoring), not just classroom and online training programs. Leadership competency framework tied to the Executive Core Qualifications, provides a shared approach for recruiting and developing supervisors, managers and executives.
Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Provided guidance to all components on succession planning.
  • Implemented several agency-wide leadership development programs, such as: SES Candidate Development Program; Executive Career Field Candidates Development Program targeting GS 13-15 high potential leaders; Continuing Executive Opportunities Program to develop new SES's; Senior Executive Series refresher course for SES incumbents; Leadership Enhancement and Development Program to prepare GS 9-12s for leadership positions; Introduction to Leadership for new first line supervisors and new division chiefs; and Cemetery Director Intern Program to prepare GS 7-11 for placement in Cemetery Director positions.
  • To further professional development VA has implemented the High Performance Development Model as its conceptual framework for all employee development. This model focuses on eight core competencies, performance based interviewing, continuous assessment, continuous learning, coaching/mentoring, competency development and performance management.

The Five Initatives:

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