June 2005





Robert H. Philibosian

Vice Chair

Ronald K. Ikejiri

Succession Management Task Force

William Petak, Chair
Isaac Diaz Barcelona
Annie Cho
Ronald K. Ikejiri
Julia Sylva


Clayton R. Anderson
Fred Balderrama
Joanne Baltierrez
Hope J. Boonshaft
Jonathan S. Fuhrman
Chun Lee
Jaclyn Tilley Hill
Royal F. Oaks
Roman Padilla
William Sullivan
G. Thomas Thompson
Tony Tortorice

Executive Director

Bruce J. Staniforth

The mission of the Commission is to examine any function of county government at the request of the Board of Supervisors, on its own initiative, or as suggested by others and adopted, and to submit recommendations to the Board which will improve local government economy and efficiency, and effectiveness.

This Report was Completed in Conjunction with the Los Angeles County Director of Personnel



The Economy and Efficiency Commission dedicates this report to the memory of

Commissioner G. Thomas Thompson

who passed away March 29, 2005.

Commissioner Thompson was a caring individual
that devoted his time to the betterment of everyone he met.
Those of us who knew him recognize and appreciate the good
that he brought into our lives.

We will miss him.



June 2, 2005

The Honorable Gloria Molina
Chair, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Room 856, Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple St.
Los Angles, CA 90012

Dear Chairperson Molina,

On October 12, 2004 your Board requested that the Commission, in conjunction with the Director of Personnel, review current programs that exist which develop and mentor managers into leadership positions. The attached report has been prepared to respond to this request of the Board.

The twelve recommendations contained within the report are intended to build upon the advances that have been made by the current county programs and processes. Our objective in undertaking this effort has been to provide the County with a foundation for the development of an executive succession management program that will prepare qualified individuals to meet the challenges and assume the responsibilities of senior management positions within the County. The Commission anticipates that the recommended succession management program will prove to be a successful and valuable asset to the operations of the County, to the county workforce and to the residents that we serve.

We remain available to your Board and county management to assist in the implementation of these recommendations and/or to respond to any additional requests that you may have concerning this issue.



Robert H. Philibosian

Cc: Each Supervisor

  • Previous Definitions
  • Model Development
  • Future Challenges
  • Definition Used in this Report
  • Demographics
  • Succession Management as a Strategy
  • An Inevitable Issue
  • Background
  • Los Angeles County Training Academy
  • County's Strategic Plan Initiatives on Succession Planning
  • Further Actions
  • The Involvement of the Board of Supervisors
  • Establishing a Culture of Achievement
  • Succession Management as a Strategic Enterprise
  • Opportunities and Challenges
  Attachment A: Los Angeles County Guiding Coalition - A Charter for Change
Attachment B: County of Los Angeles Strategic Plan Update 2005
Attachment C: Executive Level Succession Program Elements


Expected or not, leadership succession is inevitable for any organization. Not only do organizations face this inevitability in the current environment of a continually and rapidly changing economy, but the situation has also become all the more perilous with the imminent retirement of an entire generation of leaders. These conditions have a direct bearing on the need to recognize that to be successful in the management of succession requires careful thought and planning. Consequently, succession management has become a manifestly critical strategic imperative. The following recommendations are designed to assist the County of Los Angeles in efficiently and effectively addressing its succession management requirements at the executive levels of the County.


1.Define an Active Role of the Board in Succession Management - That the Board of Supervisors and county executive management take positive action to become involved in the development and implementation of an executive succession program in the County.
2.Encourage Learning and Creativity - That the Board of Supervisors and county executive management strive to develop a culture that rewards risk taking within the County by encouraging continuous learning, innovation and creativity among its managers.
3.Incorporate Succession Management in the Strategic Plan - That the Board of Supervisors acknowledges the importance of succession management through their adoption of the County Strategy Planning and workforce development goals, endorsing their implementation.
4.Create Subcommittee on Succession Management - That the Board of Supervisors direct the Chief Administrative Officer and the Director of Personnel to establish methods that assist the County in meeting its needs in the area of succession management, including the possibility of creating a focused sub-committee of the Guiding Coalition to exclusively address this need.
5.Collaboration with Other Jurisdictions - That the Department of Human Resources consider the feasibility of taking advantage of opportunities for the County to collaborate with similar jurisdictions or organizations in the identification and provision of developmental assignments.
6.Accountability of Senior Management - That the Board holds senior management accountable for building the leadership quality and depth for the future by developing measures of performance effectiveness.
7.Frequent Evaluations of Candidates - That the executive leadership of the County actively manage the executive talent pool by frequently assessing candidates, providing appropriate developmental opportunities, closely monitoring turnover, and by continually evaluating the process.
8.Address Diversity - That the Board of Supervisors direct the Affirmative Action Compliance Officer to work with the Director of Personnel and executive leadership to establish methods that ensure participation in succession management programs is inclusive, that it represents a diverse candidate pool, and that it addresses underutilization of women and minorities.
9.Promote Individual Development - That the executive leadership of the County emphasizes the importance of a specific and individualized development plan for each candidate that is supported by mechanisms to ensure that candidates conduct recognized developmental activities.
10.Utilize Technology - That the Department of Human Resources explores technology options to facilitate the implementation and operation of a succession management program by making it shorter, simpler, more flexible and/or increasingly applicable to the needs of Los Angeles County.
11.Ensure a Commitment to Career - That candidates, prior to their participation in any executive development program, be made aware of the need to make a commitment to their career development through meaningful and continuous learning.
12.Progress Report Within 90 Days - That the Board of Supervisors endorse the implementation of the adopted strategic plan and instruct the Director of Personnel to develop a plan for implementing and assessing the effectiveness of a succession management and planning program and report his progress within 90 days.


A demographic analysis of the US population visibly demonstrates that all organizations, including those in the public sector, can expect to be increasingly impacted by retirement of management personnel in the near future. Each organization will contend with a greater demand for replacements as fewer qualified personnel become available. This translates into a more urgent need to prepare competent individuals to take over the leadership of public sector organizations. [1] The Economy and Efficiency Commission first recognized the problems in department head succession in 1974 when it expressed a concern to the Board of Supervisors that more and more department head appointments were being made from outside the County. [2]

In today's rapidly changing environment, leading organizations are going beyond a succession process that focuses on simply replacing individuals. They accomplish this by becoming involved in broad, integrated succession planning and management efforts that concentrate on strengthening both current and future organizational capabilities. As part of this approach these organizations are identifying, developing and selecting successors who are the right people, with the right skills, at the right time for leadership and other key positions. [3]

The changing organizational environment facing the County necessitates the development of a process that is based upon a broad vision of what is required to develop people into effective leaders. This action speaks in both quantitative and qualitative measures to the development of individuals with those attributes, qualities and abilities needed to take over leadership responsibilities as they become available. Addressing the need to fully commit to the development of leaders will have a significant impact upon the future direction of the County, as would the failure to make such a commitment.


On October 12, 2004 the Board of Supervisors requested the Los Angeles County Citizens' Economy and Efficiency Commission, in conjunction with the Director of Personnel [4], to review current programs that exist which develop and mentor managers into leadership positions, and report back to the Board with recommendations. The Commission, in conjunction with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) has prepared this report in response to that request.


The succession planning process has been often construed within the human resources community to be an element in the broader scope of an organization's workforce management program. This interpretation encompasses a wide range of activities from recruitment, through all the phases the County uses to identify and prepare candidates for high-level management positions, to the selection and continuing development of the appointed executive. The focus of this report is not on this wide range of related activities, but rather on the continuing need to prepare individuals in the broad range of technical and executive leadership capabilities needed to succeed in executive level positions of the County. These positions include department heads and those positions that would immediately support selection of an individual to that level.

The recommendations that are made in this report are designed to improve those elements that are necessary to identify, and prepare individuals to take on the responsibilities of a county department head. At the same time, this report could be used as a foundation for the future expansion of this approach to all levels of management and supervision within the County.


Previous Definitions

The process of organizational succession is defined within the human resources and organizational development communities using various methods. It has been considered a deliberate and systematic effort to establish leadership requirements, to identify a pool of high-potential candidates, to develop leadership competencies in those candidates through learning experiences, and then to select leaders from the pool of potential leaders. [5] It has also been referred to as the means by which an organization prepares for and actually replaces management and executives that have left the organization or their positions. [6] Additional definitions have considered it to be more a tactical process rather than a strategic, systematic, and deliberate activity designed to ensure an organization's future capability to fill vacancies without patronage or favoritism.

Model Development

Prior to the 1990's succession planning was the method which was generally used by an organization to ensure its continued effective performance through leadership continuity. It proved to be an important practice in sustaining organizational initiatives, individual performance, and the execution of an organization's mission in spite of management turnover. This approach was developed to consider not only the experience and duties of a candidate; but also a consideration of the personality, the leadership skills, and the individual's readiness to take on a key leadership role.

Throughout the 1990's, as succession theory within the human resources field developed, the term "succession management" began replacing succession planning as organizations recognized that the stable work environments that were generally prevalent in the early and middle 20th century were becoming a thing of the past. [7] It was becoming evident that the succession planning model that was in use for the previous twenty years to prepare one or two individuals to succeed to designated key executive positions when the incumbent left was becoming less and less applicable.

A model which more appropriately addressed the concerns of the existing workforce needed to be proposed. This new approach had to take into consideration the increasingly dynamic employment environment that no longer assumed that an employee would remain in a particular department, within an organization or even within the same economic sector. It became evident that a revised succession management model needed to focus on the development of the full range of leadership capabilities instead of preparing individuals to meet specific job requirements. Needs dictated that a broadly based assessment process be developed in addition to dependence on evaluations by incumbent senior managers. This process ultimately resulted in the development of a model that relies on a pool of potential leaders to replace the old model which identified selected individuals as candidates to assume the responsibilities of a particular position.

Future Challenges

With the critical dynamic of constant changes in and utilization of technology, combined with the ever present potential for change in both organizational structure and mission direction, succession has now taken on a greater importance which presents the County with an escalating set of challenges. The future will unquestionably require the creation of positions that do not currently exist and that will rely upon technologies that have yet to be invented. To insure the continued ability to contribute to the accomplishment of any changes in the County's mission, the response to these challenges will require selecting candidates based upon the development of a full range of leadership competencies.

Subsequently, the careful and thoughtful planning for the eventual replacement of executives within the County takes on a critical strategic importance. It has become evident that the purpose of succession management is no longer just succession to the top - it has become a managed process within the executive pool to insure that each candidate has an equal opportunity to develop to his/her highest potential in successfully accomplishing the mission and goals of the County.

Definition used in this Report

Given the environment within which the County must now function, this report defines succession management as the strategic and systematic effort to ensure leadership continuity in key positions, to retain and develop intellectual and knowledge capital for the future and to encourage individual advancement through a wide range of developmental activities with the objective of filling executive level positions. The goals of this approach are to insure that individuals will be adequately prepared to provide effective leadership of the County and its departments and that, with these individuals in place, the County will be prepared to meet the strategic and operational challenges that will most certainly arise.



A demographic analysis of the US population unmistakably indicates that the leadership needs resulting from the retirement of individuals in the baby boom generation will become progressively more difficult to fill due to the decreasing numbers of younger individuals that will be needed to replace them. A study conducted by Development Dimensions International concluded that by 2005 one in five executives will be eligible for retirement and that the consequences for a significant number of organizations will be that forty to fifty per cent of their executives will leave within the next five years. This exodus comes at a time during which there has been a general downsizing trend within the private sector and hiring freezes and budget problems impacting the personnel structure of the public sector. A confluence of events has resulted in an economy-wide reduction in the number of individuals that are being prepared to assume leadership positions. The effect of this reduction in the number of potential executive level candidates will be an escalating competition by organizations for those few individuals that are qualified to assume these responsibilities. As an example of this trend it has been anticipated by Orange County that 814 of 2,147 eligible county workers are expected to retire in July of 2005. Concern over this level of retirement has prompted the Orange County Board of Supervisors to get a better handle on who might be leaving, how they will be replaced and the cost of their departure. [8]

It is becoming clear that individuals now have, and will continue to have for the foreseeable future, a greater choice in the management of their careers and their ability to move between organizations and/or between the public and private sectors. In further support of this thesis, in 2000 a Retention Practices Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that the highest rate of resignations within organizations occurred within professional ranks. Professionals now have an improved ability to focus on those career opportunities that offer them the maximum potential for personal fulfillment.

Succession Management as a Strategy

Succession management has a significant impact not only upon the development of qualified candidates, but also upon the retention of a stable workforce. As such it must be recognized as a strategic imperative in achieving the future success of any organization, including the County. As these marketplace demands become more and more prevalent, the County will find itself in an environment in which it has to aggressively compete to attract and retain the very best leaders. A commitment to the development of an integrated and realistic succession and leadership-development planning system will become an ever more critical element toward ensuring the sustainability of the future skills and leadership talent that will be required.

In evaluating this demand trend in leadership, the 2002 Hackett Best Practices Survey of two thousand global organizations cited succession management and planning as the single most successful strategy for reducing voluntary turnover. According to the Hackett survey, companies that practiced this approach reduced turnover by an average of sixty-five per cent. In spite of the mounting recognition that talent is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, the National Association of Corporate Directors recently found that forty-five per cent of those companies worth over $500 million did not have a clear succession plan.

An Inevitable Issue

Whether or not the County chooses to recognize it, problems involving executive succession are not only inevitable, but are also critical to attracting effective leadership in the future. To limit the impact of these problems on the County the need for a successful succession policy is a reality that requires the attention of the highest levels of management. The engagement of talent has become a mission-critical priority for sustaining high quality and effective leadership. Consequently, how the County addresses succession is no longer an element for consideration in its overall workforce development, but rather a distinct strategic imperative requiring focused attention. By being proactive in approaching this challenge of leadership development, an effective succession planning and management process will cultivate a continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness. Cultivating and sustaining innovation in the County will result from discussions held concerning future leadership needs. How the County chooses to manage its executive structure in the future will have a considerable bearing on how well the potential accomplishments of a results-oriented and accountable governmental structure are achieved.


There is a multiplicity of alternative strategies that are being used to select new leaders. This becomes apparent when considering the differences in public and private sector approaches to the identification and development of institutional leadership capacity. Public sector leadership has been primarily predicated on open competition, merit, and competitive testing mechanisms. Whereas the response of the private sector to executive replacement, not only includes open competition and competitive testing mechanisms but may also involve a number of different strategies that are designed to provide individuals with specific opportunities for professional development and ultimately for advancement within the organization.

Hewitt Associates' Leadership Consulting Practice initiated the Top Companies for Leaders research in 2001/2/3 [9]. Their objective was to identify the combination of factors that allow financially successful organizations to consistently produce great leaders. Although it is clear that private sector initiatives are not directly analogous to the policies and procedures of a county, there are some interesting concepts that may have some relevance in the design of public systems, such as the following:

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Board of Directors [10] provide leadership and direction - One of the key enablers of building leadership quality and depth is active involvement from the CEO and Board of Directors. This is certainly the case among the Top 20 Companies, which boast CEOs and boards that provide the necessary resources for growing leadership talent, and are personally involved in the selection, review, and development of their best talent.
A Focus on the Best Talent - The Top 20 Companies more actively manage their best talent compared to other companies. They more frequently identify high potentials, better differentiate compensation, provide the right kinds of developmental opportunities, and closely monitor turnover.
The Right Programs, Done Right - Although companies may have the right programs in place, it is the integration and execution of these programs that makes the most difference. The Top 20 Companies differentiate themselves by the breadth of their leadership practices and by how well these are implemented and integrated with each other.
Measurement Driven Accountability - The Top 20 Companies measure the effectiveness of leadership practices and hold current leaders accountable for building the leadership quality and depth for the future. Seventy-nine percent of the Top 20 Companies measure their programs by having metrics in place to evaluate the effectiveness of their leadership practices, compared to only 29% of other companies. They measure the leader by establishing individual accountability. Leaders are held accountable for developing leadership talent through formal performance management processes at 95% of the Top 20 Companies.
Better Financial Performance - Companies that excel at all of the above demonstrate better financial performance. Hewitt's financial analysis of the results shows a link between a company's leadership practices and enhanced financial growth and returns.

It is important to note that even thought the private sector uses these concepts in succession management the manner of their utilization has been dramatically impacted in the post-Enron age. Companies no longer believe they can find a glamorous, outsider CEO to magically solve their problems. "In this era of nervous boards, directors are interested in homegrown talent versus outside messiahs" says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale School of Management. Rakesh Khurana, assistant professor at Harvard Business School adds: "What really matters are systems that develop and perpetuate talent. We're focusing on the systems that build people." [11]

A 1999 Korn-Ferry survey reported that 79% of private sector boards of directors do not have a succession management committee, though many are critical of the succession management process. Of the 21% of boards with a succession management committee, 71% indicate their committee meets regularly. At the same time, the survey indicates that 23% think that most organizations do a poor job of succession management, 27% believe the CEO dominates the process and 30% say the board of directors gets involved too late. The consensus of the survey is that the responsibility of the private sector board of directors is to be proactive and rigorous in seeing that an effective process is in operation and to achieve the desired bench strength by developing competencies which are aligned with the organization's strategy.

Additionally, the American Productivity and Quality Center, sponsored by 16 firms, examined the succession management practices of companies who had been identified by published reports or nominated by the study team as potential "best practice partners." This effort recognized that effective succession management is a journey, not a destination. The best-practice partners in this study did not succeed in their first efforts at succession management. Similarly, none have rested on their laurels since having their process up and running. They continually evaluate and adjust their systems as they receive feedback from line executives, monitor developments in technology, and learn from other leading organizations. As an example of one element of this process, Dell Computer recently reduced the degree of computerization for succession management data in response to feedback from their field offices. Conversely, Eli Lilly and Company has focused on providing a single integrated, centralized, and synchronized database of succession information.

Marc Effron, global leader of Hewitt's Leadership Consulting Group has stated that "Although growing leaders takes time and effort for companies to do well, our study (Hewitt Study entitled "Building High-Potential Leaders") proves that there is a clear link between investing in high-potential leaders and delivering strong results for shareholders. This, along with the looming global talent shortage, makes it shocking to see so few companies investing in their best talent. The fact is that organizations will not be able to go outside the company to 'buy' leaders, as they have in the past. Instead they must build them today." [12]


There is a significant lack of information concerning succession models in the public sector. The following examples are some of the comprehensive public sector models available in the current literature.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)

In operation since 1990, the succession management process in MnDOT is reported as having achieved some success, largely because of the acceptance and support it has received across the agency.

The leadership of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) initiated an internal leadership development process designed to address competencies essential to the future of the transportation department. An organizational assessment process initiated by senior leadership incorporated potential individual needs, organizational changes, diversity status, and the core competencies of leadership, strategic and systems thinking, and people skills. Designed as a voluntary process, employees self-identify for an intensive "cascade review" process, resulting in their selection to a leadership pool. Those employees then create individual development plans with their, immediate supervisors and are provided targeted developmental opportunities to fill individual knowledge/skill gaps. As part of the MnDOT leadership pool, they are considered corporate assets for both future development and selection for senior management positions.

An agency wide working group identified strategic positions of significance to the health of the organization. Based on a voluntary survey, potential successors are identified. An assessment of individuals and organizational needs occurs. This includes a review of the high potential individuals' personal and work history, structured meetings which review management talent from unit through to department level and competency profiling (through manager and self perceptions) of the potential successors.

Based on this information, individuals under consideration are rated on potential and readiness for strategic positions in which they have expressed interest. A group of individuals is chosen for individual development through a variety of methodologies (including job reassignments). Those who are not chosen are given feedback on where they need to develop for future consideration.  [13]

State of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections

The State of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections has begun a succession management effort focusing on job transitions as significant points for organizational and individual learning. The Oklahoma Model is predicated on executive development opportunities for middle to high level management and incorporates four elements: placement for development opportunities, formal executive training, a commitment to internal promotion and advancement, and broad-based job assignments to increase individual capacity. A key feature of the Oklahoma process is the incorporation of "learning journeys'' to build networking ties and to gain insights and expertise on the inner workings and history of the agency. As their sole task, newly assigned managers take part in a series of interviews over a 2 or 3 week period with key staff and management throughout the department to identify sources of support and to develop a contextual framework of their new position [14].

The approach used in Oklahoma has been designed to develop a strong commitment from top management and to establish a systematic approach to succession planning to ensure that talent is always available and prepared to assume leadership positions within the department.

New York City Department of Juvenile Justice

Motivated by a desire to sustain major innovations initiated during her term as chief executive officer of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Ellen Schall was determined to "manage" her succession.

She commenced her efforts at a one day retreat where she announced her intention to retire, her executive team reflected on their achievements and considered who among their ranks might best carry on Schall's work. These reflections included ways of ensuring successful innovations were either kept alive or at least stored in the corporate memory to be "rediscovered" in the future.

Achieving these outcomes involved identifying and developing people who were likely to stay on in the agency. They also involved "hard wiring", i.e. systematizing innovations so that traces of what was, remained. This was achieved through a newly developed and sophisticated case management tracking system which produced regular reports for overseeing authorities; reports which would remain and would perhaps be looked for in the future.

Succession, in Schall's view, encompassed not only the passing of the baton to people who were ready to receive it, but looked to ensure continuity even if the "right" people did not make it to the top. This broader perspective, based on different succession scenarios, provides an additional dimension to an understanding of succession management.

State Efforts

In the State of Washington, the Department of Personnel has recommended that agencies use succession planning as a way to prepare a pool of qualified candidates to meet future workforce needs and to provide an avenue for long- term employees to pass on accumulated knowledge. The State of Iowa has launched a succession planning pilot project to identify the type of competencies the state expects from its future workforce, as well as what kinds of skills will be required of managers. It has also begun to offer training programs to bring future managers up to the competency level the state expects.

International Efforts

The United States General Accounting Office has reported that government agencies from around the world are using succession planning and management to achieve a more diverse workforce, maintain their leadership capacity as senior executives retire, and increase the retention of high-potential staff. [15] Effective succession planning and management initiatives also provide a potentially powerful tool for fostering broader government wide or agency-wide transformation by selecting and developing leaders and managers who support and champion change. For example, in 1999, the United Kingdom launched a wide-ranging reform program known as "Modernising Government" to improve government services, and subsequently started restructuring the content of its leadership and management development programs to reflect this new emphasis on service delivery. [16]


Although there is recognition within the County that vacancies in executive management positions are inevitable, there is a need to provide added focus on fully achieving the advantages to be gained through the establishment of a countywide succession process. This process should be designed to ensure career development opportunities for the candidates within an established leadership pool, to identify training programs that concentrate on those competencies that the strategic planning process has concluded are needed and to manage the people who have been through the program and have performed well. This report emphasizes the need to create a process that supports and builds upon the previous work that has been accomplished by the Board of Supervisors, the Chief Administrative Officer, the Department of Human Resources, and county department heads.

The literature on succession management puts forth the following principals as being necessary for the implementation of successful succession programs:

  • There must be full and continued involvement and commitment by executive management to the succession management process. Without a commitment of both resources and leadership to the development and sustainability of a meaningful program it will be impossible to succeed in these efforts.
  • The processes should be clearly defined and part of the business processes.
  • The development of succession management systems should not be overly complex.
  • There must be an overarching strategy that identifies the knowledge, skills, qualities, and abilities of current and future leaders. The purpose of a succession process is to align the process with the overall County strategy to achieve those desired organizational outcomes that have been identified. Line executives are much more likely to support a system that clearly reinforces organizational goals and objectives. In addition, a defined approach to succession management can help maintain consistency between different organizational units or differing geographic areas, and can contribute to the development of transferred leadership skills.
    Implementation strategies for succession management programs and their timeframes should be clear, with implementation problems anticipated.
    Development and assessment strategies must be objective, based on a defined leadership profile (competencies), employ multiple techniques, be part of a broader management development effort and be undertaken in the context of the County's future needs. An assessment strategy should address monitoring the performance of the succession program and should be undertaken periodically to insure that it is functioning as intended.

  • Specific behaviors, skills, performance and valuesthat leaders need to enable them to succeed now and in the future must be defined. The entire system should be developmental rather than replacement oriented.
  • Technology should be engaged to support the succession process. Information technology makes it possible for managers to monitor and update developmental plans and activities.

These criteria should be taken into account in the design of a program to address executive level succession within Los Angeles County.


A 1996 study conducted by the National Academy of Public Administration found that generally governmental leaders are not perceived as a "corporate asset" in the same way they often are in the private sector. As a result of this perception the study found that it is not unusual for fewer resources to be dedicated to the recruitment and development of the leadership group. This view was supported by Schall [17] in her exploration of public sector succession. She isolated four types of barriers to succession management being taken seriously in the public sector:

  • management reluctance to take up the succession "task";
  • the assumption that succession issues are beyond the scope of the leader's work;
  • confusion about what is meant by succession planning (replacing oneself or strategic "positioning"); and
  • how to plan succession in the midst of a shifting political environment that also faces regulatory and political constraints.

Further investigations within the public sector found that there are a number of additional internal barriers to leadership development within the public sector: organizational culture, low priority, insufficient resources, inadequate rewards for initiative/risk, limited mobility, and the lack of a defined leadership role. Other impediments to taking public sector succession efforts seriously, including issues of scope, confusion over replacement versus positioning, and a lack of planning techniques in the face of political and other constraints. [18] Additional examples of other problems that have been associated with the implementation of succession management programs in a variety of organizations include:

  • reluctance of subordinate units to release top talent for development;
  • time frames that are too short when future organizational leadership needs are considered;
  • the selection of potential leaders in "one's own image";
  • the lack of a credible and objective selection process;
  • the limited "buy in" by subordinate unit executives who do not see significant benefits from participation in an initiative that is essentially organization wide;
  • dashed expectations of internal candidates when an external person is recruited;
  • the loss of top performers because agency arrangements/structures change;
  • the HR department lacks influence (problematic when succession management is seen as human resources driving a program no one wants); and,
  • insufficient attention to focused and broad development strategies.

There are often gaps between the promises of succession planning and the reality of its outcomes. Plans, even if well thought out, can be derailed. The fragile nature of site-specific work locations, flexible working relationships, and new technologies, coupled with changing societal expectations of work and family plus an increasingly diverse workplace create new organizational landscapes. [19] The potential for unanticipated outcomes and the possible appointment of external candidates not in the candidate pool create frustration and undermine the overall success of such plans. Finally, the lack of explicit, ongoing executive support for succession management sends a negative message throughout the organization. Thus, any succession program that becomes staff driven will have limited credibility.



The thirty-eight departments, along with various staff agencies, which comprise the structure of Los Angeles County report directly to the Board of Supervisors. Under this structure the Board affords each department with a degree of operational autonomy while exercising managerial oversight to ensure that each provides the most efficient and effective service to the public. In this manner the Board functions in the role of chief executive officer in addition to the role required to fulfill their duties as the responsible legislative body.

In November, 1994, the Board of Supervisors approved the creation of the Department of Human Resources (DHR). A central function of the Department and Director of Personnel is the development of the county's workforce. In response to the needs of the Board, county departments, program issues, and county employees, many programs have been designed and implemented to address workforce development at all levels of the county organization.

Through the leadership of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the support of county department heads, in November 1999 the county's first strategic plan identified Workforce Development as a key issue in the County. For the first time, organizational goals and strategies were developed to address the means of enhancing the quality of the county's workforce. At the same time, the CAO supported and financed efforts of the Department of Human Resources in its proposal to create the Los Angeles County Training Academy as a method to address employee development needs.

Los Angeles County Training Academy

On August 25, 1998, the Department of Human Resources was instructed by the Board of Supervisors to create a plan to address the need for continued development of managers and executives for effective succession planning. In response to this Board instruction, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) completed a study in July of 1999 which confirmed a growing awareness that more than 30% of county managers and key staff would retire within the next five years. Little succession planning or development efforts were in place to respond to this situation. Based on the study, DHR proposed to the Board and the Chief Administrative Officer a partnership with the California State University (CSU) System and other local educational institutions. The proposal was a long- range initiative that included structured employee and management development programs and a wide variety of training classes, workshops, and seminars for all levels of employees.

The Board approved a CAO financed plan in November 1999 which provided for the creation of the Los Angeles County Training Academy. The first management development program was launched in February 2000. Since that time, several certificate programs have been initiated. Training Academy programs are designed to address the succession planning needs of the County. Each program focuses upon a key organizational level, which is often determined by anticipated retirement or critical need. All Academy programs are developed using cross-departmental collaboration and teamwork. The methods for designing structured development programs are consistent with current best practices in the field of organizational development and training.

The Academy has several certificate programs designed to prepare managers for an ever-changing work environment. While there are 14 certificate programs offered through the Academy, the following programs have been designed in an ongoing effort to develop county managers and executives to assume higher level leadership roles at various levels.

Bureau Chief Executive Leadership Program is a 60-hour program designed for senior leaders that focuses on advanced concepts and applications designed to assist leaders in confronting current situations and in using data as a foundation for critical decision making. Other dimensions of the program include choosing the "right" organizational design, understanding the needs of the new workforce and self- assessment and development of leadership behaviors. As of the winter of 2005 there were 16 participants enrolled in the program.

Division Chief Leadership Essentials for County Managers is a 100-hour program designed to develop a new pool of potential managers with cutting edge knowledge and skills to assist the County in developing and achieving strategic changes. The program helps participants enhance their skills in their current assignments as well as prepare them to compete for future opportunities. This program is open to employees who currently meet the minimum requirements to apply for a division chief level position in their department. Three-hundred and eighty-two (382) managers have completed the Division Chief program.

Incumbent Division Chief Future Focused Leadership is a 52-hour program designed to enhance the managerial skills of existing county division chiefs. The program provides managers with knowledge of the latest trends and management practices - new leadership skills important for managing operations in today's changing environment. A total of 123 division chief level managers have completed this program.

Section Head Certificate Program is a 100-hour program intended to help county employees, who are eligible to apply for section head positions, compete for these entry level management positions. This program provides basic principles required of managers and leaders. This 100- hour program consists of classroom instruction, plus individual assignments and group projects, over a 13-week period. Content includes current management concepts and practical applications in the workplace. Each subject area also emphasizes important elements such as business ethics, the use of technology, and customer service improvement processes. Three-hundred and forty-eight (348) employees have completed the Section Head program.

Additional management development courses have been developed in various technical areas including Budget & Finance, Human Resources, and Contracts.

It should be noted that the Bureau Chief program is the first executive leadership program. The first class of 16 participants, which began on October 27, 2004, specifically targets senior and executive level leaders in the County, and is directly linked to the development of executives as referenced in the Board's motion. Those participating in the program are committed to confronting issues and addressing the complex challenges facing the County. Participants met twice each month in special sessions with university faculty and county department heads. They worked on applied projects. Through diagnostic approaches, they researched, analyzed and developed methods to address issues within and across their organizations, developing prescriptions for action. As this is a new program DHR has initiated an evaluation processes to review the effectiveness, design and content of the program. It is also used to modify curriculum, as required, to meet the needs of the organization.

County's Strategic Plan Initiatives on Succession Planning

The County's Strategic Plan, under leadership of the Chief Administrative Office and the direction of the Guiding Coalition (GC), continues to include additional strategies and objectives to address succession planning and workforce development as a priority issue (See Attachment A). The Guiding Coalition under the overall policy guidance and endorsement of the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors is responsible for providing the leadership required to bring about fundamental changes in the culture and performance of the Los Angeles County government. Chaired by the Chief Administrative Office, its members are drawn from the ranks of the County's highest executive leadership who volunteer to commit their time and energy to fulfill the actions required to enroll others in making the future state a reality. The County's Strategic Plan, which was initially approved by the Board in November 1999, was updated and adopted by the Board on March 15, 2005.

During the County of Los Angeles' Strategic Planning Conference held in June 2004, department heads and chief deputies identified specific countywide critical issues to be explored. Made up of department heads, executives, and other managers, Strategic Issues Action Teams (SIAT) were formed and tasked with examining specific issues and making recommendations for new initiatives to include in the County Strategic Plan.

While various programs have been implemented, the county's executive leadership recognized that additional systems and processes were still required to prepare individuals to assume executive responsibilities. Under the County's goal of Workforce Excellence, succession planning was identified as a critical issue. The SIAT members specifically focused on the exploration of formal job rotation and mentoring programs. Action taken by the team included a review of the literature related to job rotation and mentoring, and a survey of departments to determine the number and kinds of formal job rotation and formal mentoring programs that currently exist in the County. Of the 33 departments that responded to the survey questionnaire, six departments have formal job rotation programs (Table 1). Three of those six departments have formal mentoring programs (Table 2). Neither the mentoring programs nor the job rotation programs target those individuals at the senior or executive management level.

Job Rotation

Professional resources describe job rotation as a career development strategy which provides opportunity for an employee to either develop new skills, or use existing skills in a different setting. The duration of job rotation programs vary from as short as three months to five years or longer. Longer rotation cycles are designed to broaden an employee's knowledge of other functions and prepare him/her for career advancement. Effective job rotation programs are linked to organizational goals and individual learning needs. Best practice strategies also include the establishment of goals and expectations before the rotation assignment begins.

Table 1

DepartmentNumber in ProgramParticipant Job ClassesDuration of AssignmentsVoluntary or Mandatory Participation
Agriculture Com/Weights & Measures 136 Associate Agriculture./Weights & Meas. Inspector; Agriculture./Weights & Meas. Inspector I, II, II; Deputies and Deputy Director, less so. At least 1 year, but less than 2 years Some voluntary, some mandatory
Consumer Affairs 18 Consumer Affairs Representative I, II, III At least 3 months, but less than 6 months Mandatory for identified classes
LACERA 10 Division Managers; Supervisors; Retirement Benefits Specialist II, III At least 6 months, but less than 1 year Some voluntary, some mandatory
Public Defender 37 Deputy Public Defender I At least 3 months, but less than 6 months Mandatory
Public Works 48 Civil Engineering Assistant; Sr. Civil Engineering Assist. 8 months Voluntary
Regional Planning 100 Regional. Planner II; Regional Planning Assistant II; Sr. Regional Planning Assist; Principle. Regional Planning Assist.; support staff Varies, no time limit Some voluntary, some mandatory


In the professional literature mentoring is defined as a formal or informal relationship between senior and junior employees for the purpose of supporting learning and development. Research results demonstrate that employees who have been mentored report greater job satisfaction and career success than non- mentored individuals.

Examples of best practices in formal mentoring programs include the establishment of defined goals and objectives for the mentoring relationship; training and education in mentorship for mentee and mentor; and a defined time period for formal mentor relationship.

Table 2

DepartmentNumber of Mentors/ MenteesMentee Job ClassificationMentor SelectionMentor Eligibility Frequency of Contacts
LACERA 8/8 Accounting Technician II; Admin. Services Analyst II; Data Systems Coordinator; Document Processing Asst; Document Processing Coordinator; Retirement Benefits Specialist I, II, III Volunteer; identified & solicited by management; identified & solicited by prospective mentee Department employees Depends on goals agreed upon in the contract
Public Defender 10/10 Deputy Public Defender I Volunteers; identified & solicited by management Department employees Once a month
Public Works 52/61 Civil Engineer Assistant.; Sr. Civil Engineer Assistant identified & solicited by management Department employees Recommend: Once every 3 months

At the County's December 2004 Strategic Planning Conference, recommendations for new Strategic Plan strategies and objectives related to succession planning were discussed with all county department heads, chief deputies, and the chief deputies of each Board office. Based on the review of the issues and responses to the survey on mentoring and job rotation programs, the Guiding Coalition included new objectives in the updated County Strategic Plan adopted by the Board on March 15, 2005. These are listed under Goal 2 - Workforce Excellence Strategy - Strategy 1 through 7 as reflected in Attachment B.

Further Actions

Executive development is a priority for the county and, as described above, discussions related to this issue are being held at the highest levels of the organization. The Director of Personnel is the lead on these strategic initiatives. DHR will take actions to research and design new programs to enhance the executive development efforts. This will include research on formal and informal mentoring, and job rotation programs as part of a comprehensive succession management program. It will be important for DHR to identify and validate the competencies and personal characteristics that are necessary for individuals to successfully participate in job rotation or mentoring programs and ultimately succeed in executive management positions.

Additionally, DHR will evaluate the effectiveness of the new Bureau Chief Executive Leadership program which began in October 2004 as one component of a succession management program. While it is the intent of DHR to offer this program once a year, DHR will reassess the need to offer the program more often based on the requirements of the organization. DHR, working with the county department heads, will conduct evaluations to assess gains in leadership knowledge and other competencies acquired from this course, and the impact the training has on the organization. Based on the results, DHR working with the CSU faculty will make appropriate modifications to the curriculum.


The primary means by which the County currently addresses succession is through a replacement process that is initiated when there is a need to fill a vacancy. While various developmental activities have been summarized by the DHR in Section XI, the county's executive leadership has recognized that additional systems and processes are required to prepare individuals to assume executive responsibilities. The Commission feels that the implementation of an overarching, long term and strategic succession management and planning system, which goes well beyond a focus on individual activities of workforce training, job rotation and mentoring, would prove to be a valued proactive approach.

An evolution from a replacement process to succession management will entail a fundamental shift from this basic one-to-one replacement strategy to a strategy that creates a "pool" of individuals that are capable of filling the executive management needs within the County. The Commission recognizes that in the course of this process, succession planning and management should ultimately not be limited to executive and leadership development, but incorporated into the county strategy as the larger systematic approach to meeting this demand. Attachment C illustrates a summary of the concepts presented in this report that can be used in building a definitive succession management and planning program that is being recommended by the Commission.

A Critical Element for Success - The Involvement of the Board of Supervisors

Prior to undertaking any succession program it must be recognized that success will be entirely dependant upon the support of top management. The evidence is overwhelming from all types of both public and private sector organizations involved in succession management and planning that the key enabler in building leadership quality and depth is the active involvement of top management.

Without the strong sponsorship and participation by the Board and the county's executive leadership, any initiative of this nature will quickly derail as a focus on other priorities shifts time and resources away from the development of future leaders. To ensure that leadership will be available to accomplish the County's best long-term interests and to put the right executives into key positions based upon the strategic goals, the Board must recognize the importance of this process in the strategic planning process by emphasizing it as a critical strategic initiative for the County. It requires a firm resolve to develop a cadre of talent that is capable of moving the County forward. Simply stated the Board, functioning as the county's chief executive, has the same obligation to protect the county's human resource asset base as they do to protect the expenditure of public funds.

A Critical Element of Success - Establishing a Culture of Achievement

Over the past years the replacement process within the public sector has been designed to reward those individuals that did not fail in their position. This encouragement of consistency has discouraged individuals from taking risks because of the consequences of failure. But, as society develops this outdated approach to management will become ever more destructive to both the organization that maintains it and the individuals that are forced to function within its constraints. Unique problems and situations evolve daily that demand progressively more creative approaches to their solution. It is ironic that if the management philosophy of any organization continues to focus on not failing there will most certainly be an increase in failure. Although the old solutions will not work, there is no advantage to the individual to take a risk and fail as a result of adopting new approaches.

Dr. William Rothwell in his book Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within, states "Think of the process of establishing systematic succession planning as making a long-term culture change. It can be a major shift in an organization where decision-makers have been accustomed to filling one vacancy at a time. Succession planning requires commitment to a longer-term, strategic view of talent needs. It can be established and operated using a step-by-step model that has been field-tested in many organizations, industries, and economic sectors." [21]

The executive management of the county must recognize that risk taking has become a critical element in achieving their goal of creating an organization committed to excellence. Without the commitment of executive management to a culture of achievement and the acceptance of potential failure by individuals when they assume those risks necessary to achieve and advance the mission of the County, any program, including succession management, will ultimately fail.

Succession Management as a Strategic Enterprise

To facilitate the implementation of the county's strategic initiatives involving workforce excellence, as noted in Attachment B, succession management should take on a central focus for executive management. The Board of Supervisors should direct that the Chief Administrative Officer and the Director of Personnel establish procedures to assist the County in meeting its needs in the area of succession management and planning. This may include the creation of a focused sub-committee of the Guiding Coalition to exclusively address this need.

The mission to be accomplished by this sub-committee would be to advance succession management and planning efforts within the County, with the objective of developing executive level leadership that meets current and anticipated needs. The program should focus on performance management, performance requirements, forecasting needs, facilitating the accomplishment of strategic goals through the preparation and placement of qualified personnel in key leadership positions, and furthering the development of the culture and values of the County.

Initially, the mission would focus on the development and implementation of a succession management program that creates an executive candidate pool. As the mission matures and expands, the focus would be modified somewhat from a concentration on the executive pool to assessing the potential future requirements of the position that is to be filled and to an evaluation of the executive qualifications to meet the requirements of a position as it changes.

1. That the Board of Supervisors and county executive management take positive action to become involved in the development and implementation of an executive succession program in the County.
2. That the Board of Supervisors and county executive management strive to develop a culture that rewards risk taking within the County by encouraging continuous learning, innovation and creativity among its managers.
3. That the Board of Supervisors acknowledges the importance of succession management through their adoption of the County Strategy Planning and workforce development goals, endorsing their implementation.
4. That the Board of Supervisors direct the Chief Administrative Officer and the Director of Personnel to establish methods that assist the County in meeting its needs in the area of succession management, including the possibility of creating a focused sub-committee of the Guiding Coalition to exclusively address this need.
5. That the Department of Human Resources consider the feasibility of taking advantage of opportunities for the County to collaborate with similar jurisdictions or organizations in the identification and provision of developmental assignments.


A successful succession plan can't be born out of crisis - it has to be long-term and the planning needs to go deep into the organization. [22] It is important to develop a succession system in which both broad based competencies and technical qualifications are considered when providing the County with a process that will serve its future strategic needs.

The Succession Management Program

The heart of a succession management program is the creation and growth of a pool of qualified candidates that is prepared to assume the responsibilities of key leadership positions within the County. This is achieved through such actions as a review of planned assignments and by making available to each candidate major education, training and developmental experiences. These efforts will result in attracting high potential candidates, an improvement in the performance of personnel at the executive level, an enhancement in the ability of the County to monitor and share individual success and a strengthening of the employee's organizational commitment and loyalty.

Continued efforts by the County to enhance the succession process will result in an improvement in the match of the county's future strategic requirements with the aspirations and qualifications of potential candidates. Additionally, there is abundant evidence that this approach will pay dividends in many ways, and not just for a candidate. By identifying the abilities and qualities needed for advancement, and by communicating these to the workforce at large, the organization may help to boost retention and performance across the County. [23]

Succession management accomplishes such things as: planning and implementing individual and possibly team developmental actions, encouraging the sponsorship of project teams that both address specific strategic requirements and allows candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skill, ensuring that each candidate receives assistance, as needed, and maintaining succession actions that are consistent with the objectives established in the County's Strategic Plan. This approach has as its objectives the continued participation and acceptance by executive level candidates, the increased probability of retained knowledge and providing expanded opportunities to improve candidate competencies. It also affords an effective response to the county's strategic direction by involving key positions held by individuals within the expanded candidate pool and by expanding upon the proactive support of the Board. Having reached this level in the development of the program it becomes more important to review succession management and planning against the outputs and outcomes that have been achieved. This structured evaluation becomes critical to achieving a successful and dynamic program.

The Executive Pool

The succession approach being proposed in this report requires that executive management focuses upon the emerging capability of a group of people who can collectively compete for advancement based upon demonstrated merit. This pool of individuals can be developed and mentored over a long period of time to prepare them for the possibility of assuming leadership positions as they become available or, in those instances where a position may not currently exist, when the need is identified. Although participation in this program may prove beneficial to the promotion potential of an individual, it is important to make it clear to everyone involved that participation in the program does not guarantee his/her selection to an executive position. It is also valuable to understand that individuals who participate in this program are continually improving their skills and competencies which can be directly applied in fulfilling their current organizational responsibilities. As a consequence, this program becomes an immediate performance asset to the County.

Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity [24]

Diversity is a vital element to the success of governmental operations. It is clear that succession management efforts provide an important opportunity to achieve the full utilization of women and minorities by encouraging an ever increasing range of employees to enter an accelerated development program. The need to address diversity in the executive structure of the County is a business and operational imperative, in part because research shows that not only is it the morally correct thing to do, but it also leads to greater productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and a positive impact on other performance indicators.

Building a diverse executive pool requires a focused attention on increasing the representation of underutilized women, minorities and people with disabilities at all levels of the County. Equal access of participants into succession management programs can provide an opportunity to increase the underutilized women and minorities and build on the progress made from current and past affirmative action and equal employment opportunity initiatives. Aggressive good faith efforts should be made to identify succession management candidates that reflect the breadth and depth of the County's diversity.

The sex and race/ethnic composition of executive and senior management job categories should be assessed to determine whether they are fully utilizing women and minorities commensurate with their availability and business practices should be reviewed to ensure they do not create barriers or glass ceilings to upward mobility. It is senior management's responsibility to ensure that equal employment opportunity is achieved in county government for all individuals regardless of race or sex.

As important, it is necessary to understand that the accomplishments of earlier diversity strategies may be in danger of being eroded due to a lack of ongoing succession planning efforts. Thus, to serve the goals envisioned by a representative government, it is essential that diversity initiatives be aligned with succession planning and other strategic goals and activities. The existence of a structured system within which to ensure that opportunities are made available to everyone is not only a noble goal; it is the most effective means available to achieve both the business goals of the organization and the ongoing participation of all peoples in the leadership of the County.

The Process

The implementation of succession management and planning moves the process from one that uses the job description as a key element of selection to one that focuses upon the review of both the current competencies required of a key position and the competencies that will be required in the future. The continued expansion of the succession management and planning program is characterized by an ever more proactive approach on the part of the County, in that it requires routine discussion and shaping of the future organization of the County, clarifies the county's position structure, and determines the county's competency requirements within the context of its strategic needs and goals. The real key in succession management and planning is to create a match between the organization's future needs and the aspirations of individuals. The only way to keep talented people is to provide them with growth opportunities that keep them stretching and finding more promising opportunities that might be available elsewhere. [25]

Strategic Direction

The literature demonstrates that those organizations that are the most effective in succession management make it an integral organizational process by exhibiting a link between succession management and planning and the organization's overall business strategy. This link gives succession management and planning a significant opportunity to positively influence the county's long-term goals and objectives. In addition, by aligning succession management and planning within the overall strategy of the county line executives are much more likely to support the program since it clearly reinforces county and departmental strategic goals and objectives.

Employee Development Process

In order to prepare potential leaders, the gap between current capabilities and those capabilities that will be needed to assume the responsibilities of a future position needs to be determined. In a study conducted by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) education and training are listed as one of the three pillars of leadership development. All of the succession management and planning initiatives that NAPA studied included well-thought-out, progressive, and rigorous educational and leadership programs. [26] The following can be utilized, in addition to other possibilities, as part of an education and training program:

Job Rotation/Assignment - Mobility can contribute to an executive's professional growth and can foster program innovations. (See Attachment A: Strategic Plan, Goal 2, Objective. 3 and the current actions of the County). Peter Drucker advocated "learning by doing" when he wrote, "Don't put people just in learning experiences, put them in doing experiences; achieving enables people to grow."
Mentoring Program - A Bennis/Linkage survey of 5000 high performance organizations in the United States, identified "exposure to senior executives" as the most critical program for accelerating the development of high potential employees. [27] Once the candidate has been identified, a plan for him/her should be developed. Each candidate should be assigned a mentor. The mentor and the candidate should form a teacher- student relationship. When issues arise that need problem solving or decision making, the mentor should meet with the candidate to see how he/she would handle the situation. (See Attachment A: Strategic Plan, Goal 2, Objective. 4 and the current actions of the County.)
Job Shadowing - This process allows candidates time to "shadow" executives. If possible, they should be allowed to attend board meetings and participate in the decision making. This is a good way to see how they problem solve and interact with all levels of the organization. Executive management may even want to present the candidate with a problem and allow him/her to solve it, possibly as a group, without any benefit of input from management. This will provide insight into how the candidate would react under these circumstances.

As the program develops it should expand the candidate's capabilities in competencies that require different types of decision-making processes such as goal-setting activities, strategic planning, and/or budgeting. It is important to see how the candidate responds to these types of demands. This opportunity would serve as an effective vehicle to determine how well the potential leader solves problems.

Monitoring the Candidate

Currently the performance assessment cycle begins as each candidate reaches agreement with his or her manager on typically 3 to 5 objectives that are consistent with goals and performance expectations contained in the county/department's strategic planning initiatives. These objectives are documented in a performance agreement that might also include one or more development objectives related to competencies, skills, and knowledge that the individual must improve. At year end, the superior rates the individual's performance relative to the objectives.

This performance management process is an essential enabler of effective succession management and planning. Developing accurate data about performance of the potential leader over time must be available and become a part of the selection criteria for the program. Additional data such as assessments of competencies and skills, previous experience, and time in position - potentially including a wide range of other elements such as 360- degree assessments, career interest, and others, should be available to analyze potential program participants and future leaders. As the County progresses in the implementation of the succession management and planning process identified competencies will become an increasingly important element in the utilization of the performance management system. It will also provide access to and a basis for developmental assignments that can be used to provide effective guidance for and feedback on performance.

Monitoring Succession Planning

It is vital for the success of this effort to monitor any succession management and planning undertaking. This would include a periodic evaluation of the process including the following: assessing progress on individual development plans, evaluating the degree of involvement of current leaders or senior executives and determining the effectiveness of appointments. This evaluation can be designed to make suggestions and recommendations for improving the process so that it becomes more effective and efficient. Informal reviews could be scheduled periodically, rather than relying on a large-scale annual process. Additionally, a unified approach to succession management can help to maintain consistency between various departments, improve organizational performance and contribute to meeting the county's strategic workforce development initiatives.

To accomplish these evaluations measures need to be developed to assess the program, its leadership and individual accountability. This information will enable a determination of the effectiveness of established leadership practices. Without such measures, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to understand key trends as they develop within the County. One metric by which succession systems can be evaluated is the percentage of executive level position vacancies that are filled from within the County. The rationale for this metric is that if the person selected for a vacant position was from a list of potential internal candidates, the system could be assumed to be working. Other key metrics may include diversity and cross-functional assignments and meeting individual and organizational performance goals.

The Use of Technology

Technology plays an important role in the succession planning process. The utilization of information technology may assist managers throughout the County to monitor and update developmental leadership plans and actions. The implementation of an enterprise system that gathers and analyzes information may well take on critical importance in the development of an effective program.

Individual Development Plans

A countywide succession program should utilize the current county performance management systems to enhance developmental opportunities. This could include activities that engage candidates and augment their capabilities. The creation of stretch goals that are consistent with the County's needs, as well as with those of the individual candidate, will not only prove valuable in developing the candidate, but they will also serve to push the limits of what is being done within the County. In addition, a temporary assignment as a part of, or tied to, an action learning assignment might well prove to be very effective when appropriately designed and planned. These approaches combined with professional counseling and coaching, where needed, can be either provided as a general strategy or be targeted to individual candidates. This will ensure that expectations are managed and realistic development plans being developed.

Undertaking Self Development

Candidates, as future leaders, will find it necessary to take on increasing responsibility for the management of their own career and capability development. This includes staying attuned to the future competency requirements of the County, identifying their own competency gaps, performing successfully in highly visible and complex assignments and building a network of mentors and sponsors. In those instances where development plans are created, but for some reason are not implemented, alternative approaches might be explored to allow candidates additional exposure by working out further opportunities in conjunction with his/her manager that would be the subject of a performance review. Ray Blunt, leadership coach for the Council for Excellence in Government, wrote in Organizations Growing Leaders: Best Practices and Principles in the Public Service that a self development ethos was just as critical to the success of succession management as the support of senior leaders.


Individuals are now accountable for meeting developmental objectives and gaining and demonstrating new competencies. It is important to note that while county and management support and involvement are critical to successful implementation of a development plan, the individual must ultimately be held accountable for meeting his/her developmental goals and maintaining the quality of his/her performance.

6. That the Board holds senior management accountable for building the leadership quality and depth for the future by developing measures of performance effectiveness.
7. That the executive leadership of the County actively manage the executive talent pool by frequently assessing candidates, providing appropriate developmental opportunities, closely monitoring turnover, and by continually evaluating the process.
8. That the Board of Supervisors direct the Affirmative Action Compliance Officer to work with the Director of Personnel and executive leadership to establish methods that ensure participation in succession management programs is inclusive, that it represents a diverse candidate pool, and that it addresses underutilization of women and minorities.
9. That the executive leadership of the County emphasizes the importance of a specific and individualized development plan for each candidate that is supported by mechanisms to ensure that candidates conduct recognized developmental activities.
10. That the Department of Human Resources explores technology options to facilitate the implementation and operation of a succession management program by making it shorter, simpler, more flexible and/or increasingly applicable to the needs of Los Angeles County.
11. That candidates, prior to their participation in any executive development program, be made aware of the need to make a commitment to their career development through meaningful and continuous learning.
12. That the Board of Supervisors endorse the implementation of the adopted strategic plan and instruct the Director of Personnel to develop a plan for implementing and assessing the effectiveness of a succession management and planning program and report his progress within 90 days.


Through the commitment of the Board, CAO, Director of Personnel and county department heads, the importance of workforce development has been elevated to a critical strategic issue within the County as reflected in the County's Strategic Plan approved by the Board on March 15, 2005. The County has made strides in the area of workforce development through the design of a number of employee development programs, and through its strategic workforce development initiatives. However, the County as an organization must recognize the importance of placing a special focus on developing an overarching and strategic succession management and planning program that will preparing executive candidates to take over the leadership challenges and responsibilities that will be required of future department heads.

Pairing the county's workforce development strategies with an increased attention on executive leadership development is critical and requires the commitment of the Board and all department heads. A formal process that evaluates, educates and trains potential candidates against identified leadership competencies and behaviors, and measures individual and organizational performance will greatly assist in the development of future leaders.

This report has addressed the request of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to consider the development of individuals to assume the responsibilities of future leadership positions by recommending a strategic approach to the succession management and planning problem. It has considered numerous approaches that might be taken as a part of this effort, and has come to the conclusion that without the integration of these elements into an effective and recognized program that the possibilities for ultimate success will be limited. We have also come to the conclusion that it is important that succession management and planning systems and processes be addressed now rather than becoming a lost opportunity and more significant problem in the future.

1 Green, Marnie E., Beware and Prepare: The Government Workforce of the Future, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 29, No. 4, Winter 2000.

2 The Los Angeles County Citizens’ Economy and Efficiency Commission, Appointment of County Department Heads, January 29, 1974.

3 U. S. General Accounting Office, Succession Planning and Management Is a Critical Driver of Organizational Transformation, Testimony of J. Christopher Mihm, Director, Strategic Issues, before the Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization, Committee on Government Reform, GAO-04-127T (Washington, D.C., Oct 1, 2003.

4 Reader’s Note: The title of the Director of the Department of Human Resources is the “Director of Personnel”.

5 Tropiano Jr., Matthew, Effective Succession Planning, Defense AT&L, May-June 2004.

6 Wilkerson, Brian, Effective Succession Planning: The Public Sector Imperative, WisdomNet White Paper Series, May 1, 2002.

7 Liebman, M., Bruer, R.A., and Maki, B.R., (1996), Succession Management: The Next Generation of Succession Planning, Human Resource Planning, 19(3), pp. 16-29.

8 Pasco, Jean O., New O.C. Pension To Fuel Departures: Number of Workers Leaving Might Be Nearly Triple The Average Now That The Plan Is Juicier, Los Angels Times, January 20, 2005.

9 Hewitt Associates, LLC, How Companies Grow Great Leaders: Top Companies for Leaders, 2003 Research Highlights, (http://was4.hewitt.com/hewitt/services/talent/subtalent/top_companies_research_highlights.pdf).

10 Reader’s Note: The reader should be aware that a Board of Directors within the private sector does not fill the same role as the Board of Supervisors in Los Angeles County. The Board of Supervisors functions in both the executive management and a legislative capacity for the County. As such it maintains the ultimate responsibility for the policies and operations of county departments and its personnel.

11 Spiro, Leah Nathans, In Search of Leaders: Whatever Their Strategy, CEO’s Are Convinced That Grooming Top Leaders Is Absolutely Key To Their Companies’ Ability to Compete, Chief Executive, October 2003, Vol. 192.

12 Hewitt Associates, Not Enough Companies Growing Top Talent, Hewitt Study Shows, Press Release, April 3, 2003.

13 Blunt, R., and Clark, H. (1997), Growing Public Service Leaders, Human Resource Magazine, 26(2), 87-92.

14 Riedman, S. (1990), Succession Systems In The Public Sector: Lessons From The Oklahoma Department Of Corrections, Public Personnel Management, 19(3), 291-303.

15 U.S. General Accounting Office, Human Capital: Insights for U.S. Agencies From Other Countries’ Succession Planning and Management Initiatives, GAO-03-914 (Washington, D.C.: Sept 15, 2003).

16 U.S. General Accounting Office, Post-hearing Questions Related To Succession Planning and Management, GAO-04-270R (Washington, D.C.: Nov 14, 2003.

17 Schall, E, (1997), Public Sector Succession: A Strategic Approach to Sustaining Innovation, Public Administration Review 57 (1) p.3.

18 Ibid. p 5.

19 Leibman, M., Bruer, R.A., & Maki, B. R.,(1996), Succession Management: The Next Generation of Succession Planning, Human Resource Planning, 19(3), 16.

20 Reader’s Note: Section XI was prepared by DHR at the request of the Economy and Efficiency Commission to ensure that their assessment of the current process was accurately presented.

21 Rothwell, William J., Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent From Within, American Management Association, 2001.

22 Guilford, Roxanna, Succession Planning Getting Little Real Attention, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Aug. 28, 2000.

23 Wells, Susan J., Who’s Next: Creating A Formal Program For Developing New Leaders Can Pay Dividends, But Many Firms Aren’t Reaping Those Rewards, HR Magazine, November 2003, Vol. 48, No 11.

24 Readers Note: This section was written in conjunction with the Los Angles County Office of Affirmative Action Compliance

25 Fulmer, Robert M., Choose Tomorrow’s Leaders Today: Succession Planning Grooms Firms for Success, Graziadio Business Report, Pepperdine University, Winter 2002. 26 Tropiano, Matthew, Effective Succession Planning, Defense AT&L, May-June 2004.

26 Tropiano, Matthew, Effective Succession Planning, Defense AT&L, May-June 2004.

27 Linkage Inc. (1999), Best Practices For Identifying, Developing And Retaining Emerging Leaders, Executive Summary of a Bennis/Linkage Research Study, 1999, http://www.linkageinc.com




Lynn, Dahlia Bradshaw, Succession management strategies in Public Sector Organizations: Building Leadership Capital, Review of Public Personnel Administration, 21(2), Summer 2001.

Succession Management: Identifying and Cultivating Tomorrow's Leaders, Consortium Learning Form - Best Practice Report, American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC International Benchmarking Clearinghouse, 2001.

Fulmer, Robert M. and Conger, Jay A., Growing Your Company's Leaders: How Great Organizations Use Succession Management to Sustain Competitive Advantage, American Management Association, 2004

Rothwell, William J., Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within, Second Edition, American Management Association, 2001.

International Personnel Management Association, Workforce Planning Resource Guide for Public Sector Human Resource Professionals, 2002








Enhance the quality and productivity of the County workforce.

Strategy 1:By December 31, 2006, establish an employee development system that improves the quality of the workforce.
Objective 1:By October 30, 2005, continue to build on the implementation of the e- Learning Suite in Public Health Programs by securing funding and initiating implementation of the enterprise e-learning System throughout the County.
Objective 2:By January 31, 2006, create a vacancy clearing house by expanding the functionality of DHR's online Transfer Opportunity database to permit employees who desire a transfer opportunity to post short, anonymous, structured descriptions of their qualifications and positions desired. This clearing house would also allow Departments to efficiently search the postings and contact individuals via a private, electronic mailbox.
Objective 3:By January 31, 2006, begin implementation of a formal management mentoring program that will include the recruitment and matching of Mentors and Mentees, ongoing training programs and a networking group to support Mentees' learning, performance and career development.
Objective 4:By January 31, 2006, conduct a feasibility study with recommendations concerning funding, timelines and other issues related to implementing a developmental program for key management positions. Issues to be considered include early examinations to identify potential candidates early and transition processes that ensure continuity of leadership.
Objective 5:By March 31, 2006, create a structured, goal and competency based job rotation program that develops job specific competencies (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics) needed to accomplish organizational goals and meet performance requirements, in initially focusing on the development of templates, best practices, and policies and procedures for departmental use.
Objective 6:By October 1, 2006, conduct a feasibility study to determine the issues that would need to be addressed to implement an inter-departmental job rotation program.
Objective 7:By December 31, 2006, identify patterns of job competencies (career paths) that would allow employees to move within or across job series or job families based on required job knowledge, skill, abilities or other characteristics. Design formal development programs (e.g., job rotation, mentoring, training, etc.) to meet the requirements of the vertical or horizontal career paths.
Strategy 2:By July 1, 2007, begin a phased implementation of the proposed countywide performance management system, designed to improve individual performance, and align employee job performance and work behaviors with County and/or departmental strategic objectives and values.
Objective 1:By June 30, 2005, create a steering committee, chaired by the Director of Personnel, which will review and approve the work of an implementation team for a new performance management system including an approach to solicit feedback from employees on supervisors' demonstration and support of important strategic values and effective management and supervisory practices.
Objective 2:By September 30, 2005, develop and submit to the steering committee a plan for implementing an automated, enterprise-wide performance management system, that will address any special administrative or regulatory departmental requirements and core performance expectations for the most populous classes. The system should be capable of managing the ongoing collection and analysis of work life and training needs data from employees to help assess the effectiveness of programs an other interventions implemented to improve service delivery and the work environment and performance.
Objective 3:By January 31, 2006, initiate discussions with labor organizations, employees and other groups regarding an enterprise-wide performance management system.