In our succession planning case study, our client was an independent, not-for-profit global organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the food, water, and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Over 1,000 employees in 23 countries currently serve companies in more than 150 countries.

Three years ago, in the midst of rapid expansion, the organization embarked on a developmental program for high-potential, emerging leaders from around the world. After a well-intentioned, but flawed start by an academically-oriented consultant, we were engaged in the second year of the program to redesign the curriculum within an established framework to make learning more relevant and more practical for the participants, and more strategically aligned to the organization’s overall goals. Recently, based on the success of the program to date, the client re-engaged us through 2014.


The organization’s ultimate goal is to build an internal talent pipeline to facilitate global succession planning as it continues on its rapid growth trajectory. High potential line leaders from around the world, most of whom possess highly technical backgrounds as toxicologists, engineers and public health professionals, need to acquire critical leadership skills. The succession planning program also needs to:

  • Provide advanced content, experiences, company exposure, and insights to prepare participants for future roles
  • Establish a strong cross-functional network across the many locations
  • Provide comprehensive feedback to participants regarding their interests, capabilities, and motivations to increase self-awareness and to launch individual development plans
  • Validate that they are appropriately assessed as future leaders, resulting in a deeper sense of feeling valued by the company and higher retention rates
  • Evolve a common organizational culture by reinforcing critical leadership behaviors
  • Expose senior executives to the high potentials’ interests, capabilities, and motivations


Feedback that the legacy program was too theoretical led us to develop an entirely new approach where practical content is presented in a sequential, integrated and interactive manner over four days, four times per year. The overall process aligns with the organization’s strategy, vision, core values and future development objectives for this particular audience and is coupled with individual coaching. Distinguishing features include:

  • A focus on pragmatic content, delivered by senior leaders with design oversight by our facilitator to ensure it is delivered in a meaningful manner with minimal redundancy and maximum impact
  • A design tailored to adult learners with diverse backgrounds and learning styles including exercises and action learning that emphasize the application of problem-solving skills
  • A deliberate branding of the program to communicate its importance to the organization and give it cachet among participants


At the end of each program session, the following outcomes were confirmed by the client:

  • Program participants consistently outperform their peers and are engaged with no perceived turnover risk
  • Several participants have been promoted into higher positions
  • Four substantive action learning projects were completed, presented to the CEO, and implemented as part of the company’s strategic plan. One project resulted in bringing a new business line to market a year sooner than anticipated with an already confirmed revenue of $250,000
  • The program evaluations score high on how well the program conveys new, relevant knowledge, teaches applicable skills/techniques and creates positive behavior change
  • The CEO endorses the program and its impact on eroding cultural and functional silos and promoting a consistent corporate culture across the organization

Keys to a Successful Project

  • Practical application of solid leadership content
  • Executive leadership and HR sponsorship and participation
  • Relevant, challenging curriculum tailored to high potentials and a culturally-diverse group
  • Participant accountability
  • Action Learning through a group Core Project
  • Sharing of experiences through Peer Round Tables and “Leadership Tales”
  • Personality and 360 Assessments
  • Individual coaching to complement group work and sustain the effort


RELATED: Read our post on Succession Planning Best Practices

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