Interviews & articles

Succession planning: are you on top of it?

By Rowena Price

Many cultural organisations, particularly SMEs and small charities, operate with a degree of risk when a considerable deal of senior knowledge and information sits with so few people. Those in the most senior leadership roles - CEOs, Artistic Directors, Chairs of the Board - carry a lot.

In the latest episode of The CGA Podcast we speak about succession planning: why it's so important to create a culture of succession, and how to address the various challenges attached to this sensitive topic.

Whose responsibility is it?

What are the barriers that stop us addressing it?

What steps should we be taking to mitigate against related risks?

Whilst some organisations are on top of these issues - we know, anecdotally, that many are yet to address them comprehensively.

Our guest is Cath James, Artistic Director at Brighton based dance development organisation South East Dance.

“The succession plan is a vital strategic part of any risk register for any organisation.” - Cath James

In November 2019, Clore Leadership, in partnership with the Cultural Governance Alliance, hosted the second edition of Governance Now. At the event Cath spoke movingly about the impact of unexpectedly losing a key senior member of staff at her organisation, South East Dance. Her 8 minute lightning talk on the subject proved to be one of the most well received sessions of the day - so she kindly agreed to join us again to delve deeper into the subject of succession planning, picking up from where she left off at Governance Now.

In the discussion, Cath breaks down an achievable approach to addressing succession planning in three manageable steps:

  1. Prioritisation
    1. Add it as a standing item to the board agenda to keep it on everyone’s radar
  2. Preparation
    1. Create a flow chart or matrix that details the mitigating steps in the event of the departure of key members of the board and executive team
  3. Communication
    1. Discuss and agree acting up roles with appropriate members of the team/trustees
    2. Communicate the plan with the whole of the organisation - maintain open lines of communication and normalise the topic


Useful links

You can find the podcast on a range of platforms, including Spotify and Google Podcasts.

If you would like to join the conversation and feature in a future podcast about cultural governance, contact us at [email protected]

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