Succession Planning

Succession planning begins in a high performance organization when it is determined that leadership changes in the C-suite, especially for the CEO, are expected or anticipated as far out as possible. It is a decision a CEO must share with the highest level of confidentiality, sometimes only with a board president or an executive committee.

Since any thought of a succession plan, especially for a CEO, would have a significant impact on the organization, careful thought and strategy must go into the development of a plan of action, with flexible timelines and careful consideration of the culture and chemistry of the people involved.

NPPN has developed these succession plan guidelines, in four stages which are timeline flexible, per each organization’s needs:

1. Information Gathering/Research

  • One-on-one interviews with the current CEO.
  • One-on-one interview with current board chair.
  • Group interview with the executive committee.
  • Analysis of current strategic business plan.
  • Review of all C-suite employee job descriptions.
  • One-on-one meetings with all C-suite employees.

2. Market Analysis

  • Extensive research on competitive CEO and other C-suite salaries.
  • Potential realignment of agency’s organizational chart to align with future business growth.
  • Private interviews with top funding sources and other prominent stakeholders, to determine what the reaction might be in the market, about the organization’s succession.

3. Working with internal staff and/or heir apparent

  • First, determine if there are any likely successors to the CEO, based on research done in phase one of this plan.
  • Invest in bench strength by researching and recommending continuing education options to help buffer any skills-sets others on the C-suite team might need to retain them within the organization.
  • Develop a communications plan, internally focused, on how to keep all information confidential about the organization’s plan of action, especially as any announcement is made about the CEO’s plans (usually 12-18 months in advance of a retirement announcement).
  • Begin an analysis of the outside market for C-suite employees, in case any top leaders leave, in advance of a CEO’s departure.

4. Preparing for an executive search

  • Work with executive committee on best role for the outgoing CEO, citing best industry practices.
  • In advance of a search, conduct a market study of the potential candidate pool, across all sectors, to help educate the executive search committee about expectations in filling the position.
  • Develop a timeline for the succession plan, at least a year or two ahead of time, and allow a full year to prepare for, conduct and conclude the search process for the CEO.
  • Work with the executive committee to determine what impact changing the CEO will have on the organizational chart (who else might leave, etc.)
  • Post search services would include on boarding of the new executive, as well as benchmarking success of the transition per the board, staff and CEO viewpoints.


  • I have worked with Gary Dembs and his team for over 18 years.

    In 2014, the Detroit Medical Center worked with the staff and board at the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit, in the rebuilding of the new House.  We hired NPPN to manage our capital expansion campaign.  All indications point that the $3 million will be raised with Gary’s expertise, leadership, and thoughtful, strategic planning.

    Most recently, NPPN did the executive search for our marketing director.  We secured an extremely capable, talented marketing director, with the help of Gary and his team.

    Gary is extremely well connected in the non-profit community and has brought talent, new funds, excellent marketing strategies and financial guidance to our charity.  We highly recommend NPPN for executive search, strategic planning and capital campaign planning.

    Jennifer Litomisky Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House - Detroit

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