Ruggles^2 COO Authors Article on "Organizational Preparedness via Succession Planning"

Ruggles^2 (pronounced "Ruggles-Squared") COO, Bill Ruggles, had his 4th article published in the October/November issue of MeadowlandsUSA, the bi-monthly magazine of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce:  "Focus on Succession Planning".

His previous articles focused on Disruptive Technology and Innovation (two TechTalk Column Articles) and Continuous Improvement and Performance Excellence in Healthcare demonstrating quite clearly his incredible versatility of expertise and know-how in a broad range of topics.

To read an online version of his current article click here.

Or, if you prefer, here's an excerpt from his current article:

Through the succession planning process, superior employees are recruited, their knowledge, skills, and abilities should be developed and they are prepared for advancement or promotion into ever more challenging roles, preferably within that organization.  However, an oft-overlooked output of succession planning is the need for these same employees to create a plan for turning the reins over to their successor, should their position, for whatever reason, become vacant.  This is the type of succession planning addressed in this article.

Like any process, Succession Planning should be comprised of a set of strategically-aligned Inputs, Tools/Techniques, and Outputs.  Here is a bulleted list of each of these components:


  • Organizational Strategic Plan (Mission, Vision, and Values)
  • Division/Department’s Strategic Goals and Objectives
  • Succession Planning Statement of Purpose
  • Succession Planning Implementation Action Steps (Big-Picture)
  • Succession Planning Implementation Action Steps (For Each Functional Area)
  • Succession Planning Templates


  • Expert Judgment (both Internal and External SMEs)
  • Facilitation
  • Meetings


  • Succession Plans (For Each Key Employee)

In 2014, I had a chance to put this Succession Planning process into practice in the Public Sector while serving as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Workforce Enhancement for the State of New Jersey’s Office of Information Technology (OIT).  I was one of 5 members of the Governor’s Technology Cabinet and 16 members of the OIT Executive Management Team.

Since I was the first person to ever occupy this position, I had no successor from whom to establish and ensure continuity.  It was up to me.  So, shortly after I took on this role, I initiated the performance of a review of the 45 employees in what was called “Workforce Enhancement Affinity Group” (WEAG) of whom I determined 5 (including me) were “key employees”.  The other 4 (a Manager and 3 Project Managers) had over 105 years of combined State experience and each one was eligible to retire with a full pension and medical benefits, should they decide to do so.  I decided that was too much risk for the Taxpayers, the State, OIT and WEAG to have without some type of “mitigation strategy”. 

So, we commenced the Succession Planning process using the organizational excellence resources I had accumulated over my previous 25-year career and adapted them for use in this particular work environment.  As an added step, I requested that these 4 “key employees” include an assessment of the skills-sets, competencies and capabilities as well as the projected retirement dates of each member of their respective Functional Area Teams. 

Then, we created the WEAG Succession Planning Team and gathered the necessary inputs: the OIT Strategic Plan (Mission, Vision, and Values), the WEAG Strategic Goals and Objectives, the WEAG Statement of Purpose, the Implementation Action Steps, and the Templates.   We included Succession Planning as an Item in our Weekly Managers’ Meeting Agenda and conferred between meetings to be sure the various Action Items would be completed by their respective due dates.  It’s a good thing we had commenced this process proactively because…

The first in what turned out to be a series of retirements was announced: after 30 years of service to the State, my only Manager announced his intention to retire within 60 days.  A few weeks later, a Team Leader and a Senior Developer, with nearly 55 years of combined experience, both announced their respective retirements within 60 days after that.  Fortunately, we already had a head-start on their Succession Plans to minimize the impact of their pending retirements.

 Finally, when my requests for compensatory and/or human resource support were repeatedly rejected by my superiors over those ensuing 4 months, we arrived at a mutually-agreed-upon exit strategy so that I could return to my management consulting practice in the Meadowlands Region, but not before I submitted my Succession Plan as well as those for my remaining WEAG Management Team members to pass on to my successor.

I think that is the way organizational succession should be handled:  in a proactive, integrated, and preventive way and I would love to receive your comments or feedback on this matter, too.

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