A Bit About Succession Planning

So I have some news, after much consideration, I've decided to submit my notice to Sonatype. I've grown tremendously during my 3 years at Sonatype. First joining as an Engineering Manager working with wonderful people on the Lifecycle product. Then later moving on to the Director of Engineering for the complicated sub-systems of Sonatype. I’ve met some wonderful people on the way, and they will be forever missed. I have no doubt that they will be successful in their business market going forward and I wish them all the best.

That being said, it's time to start walking through succession planning. I really want to set my successor up for success when I leave. I'm reminded of a great episode of The Office (US) when Dewight gets fired for the episode. After a few weeks, things start falling apart in odd ways. The plants start dying, the fridge starts smelling, etc... He didn't get the chance to hand off the things he did around the place before he left.  During my time at Sonatype, I've picked up a number of plants that need regular watering. I want to make sure those plants stay happy and healthy so I have to hand them off. 

My method for succession planning comes from the book "An Elegant Puzzle" by Will Larson (highly recommend for any manager, read my review here). First I look at my calendar over a 2-month timeframe and write down the role I play in each meeting. These came into 4 main buckets; facilitator, decision-maker, mentor, and observer. I then categorized each meeting to the area of the business that it covered. I then wrote down all the people I support, contracts I support, and customers I help support. I also wrote down a list of 1:1s that I had and why. Creating this doc will help my successor to understand how I operated. They will then be able to understand how I navigated my area of responsibility, and it should help inform them from where to start. Understanding that things change and the need for things change, it's only meant to be a starting point. 

After a few weeks time and some in-depth conversations the plan was executed and I handed off my responsibilities. It’s no easy thing to do, but it is critical so that things don’t fall apart. In my case I was leaving the company, but in many cases of succession you are being promoted to a new role within the company. That is where succession planning becomes even more critical. If you don’t do a succession plan with an internal promotion you will take your old role into your new role.

Anyway, I’m off to a new adventure at Grafana Labs, I’m sure I’ll have more to share, but for now, on to on boarding in a new organization 👋


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