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I generally enjoy reading Mike Welch’s column, and more often than not, I agree with him. However, in his June 23rd column regarding succession plans (“Don’t Get Carried Away With Cry For Succession Plans”), he appeared to narrow his focus too much towards the actual CEO replacement, versus the plan – and the plan process. His opening sentence refers to this topic as a “succession planning process”. If he had kept that reference of a “process” in mind, perhaps the article would have taken a different tone. Welch dismisses succession planning for smaller credit unions, suggesting that a merger plan might be more appropriate. He suggests that the departure of a president from a smaller credit union often leads to the demise of the credit union. That may be true. But what if the members, the board, and the remaining staff want to keep the credit union as a going concern? If they do, the succession planning process is not meant to be a one-minute answer to announcing a new president. It is a guide, and it is a roadmap for the paths that all interested parties should be following in the interim. It is a ready resource on how to go about the process of finding the next president, or any other key manager, no matter what size the credit union might be. Welch asserts that larger credit unions “.usually run like a top even when the CEO is out of the office a lot.” Once again, that may be true. Although large credit unions might chug along just great in the absence of their CEO, or any other key manager, it is quite possible that management and the board may have no experience and no clue about the process of replacement. A succession plan is about much more than replacing one individual at the top. It’s not limited to looking up which manager has been designated as next in line, and then making an announcement that a new president has been found. A good succession plan should never be viewed as a static document with such a singular purpose. A good plan is updated often. It should be viewed as a very dynamic process that addresses all key positions, not just the president. It is a process that helps a board to understand how they should proceed. It is a process that identifies responsibility for a variety of actions, both on the board and in management. A good succession plan identifies the strengths and weaknesses of key management. It identifies the readiness, and the willingness of key managers to fill a variety of management rolls. A good plan shows where the holes are, and acts as a good training guide to assure that key managers receive the skill sets and the management training they will need to take on additional, or different responsibilities. In his final paragraph, Welch writes, “Finally, if a succession plan is defined as having a pre-designated clear chain of command to keep things rolling along until a new permanent CEO is hired, I have no problem with that.” That narrow of a focus is neither a good definition, nor a good purpose for a succession plan. A good succession plan accomplishes a lot more than what Welch suggests. Jim Kanaley President/CEO Tobyhanna Army Depot FCU Scranton, Pa.

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