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10 steps for developing a leadership succession plan

MGMA Stat - January 23, 2019

Human Resources

Operations Management

Cristy Good MPH, MBA, CPC, CMPE
Nick Fabrizio PhD, FACMPE, FACHE
succession plan for leadership
Succession planning is defined as a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace leaders when they retire, die or leave an organization. It's a process based on developing a plan that increases the availability of experienced and capable employees who are prepared to assume leadership roles.

The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders if their organization has a succession plan for leadership postitions. The majority of respondents (57%) do not have a succession plan for leadership positions, 35% reported that they do and the remaining 8% were unsure. This poll was conducted on Jan. 22, 2019, with 1,212 applicable responses.

One respondent noted, “Yes, through our workforce planning committee and through our recruitment, we try to identify potential leaders for succession and then invest in preparing them for those roles.” Of those who indicated they do not have a succession plan, many responded that they are in the process of developing one, while others said their practice is too small to create one.

Succession planning is based on the broader human resources planning process. The key to this process is to identify, develop, retain and train employees to fill leadership roles as they become available. The foundation of succession planning is based on recruiting superior employees; developing their skills, abilities and knowledge; and preparing them for promotion or advancement.

10 Steps for developing a leadership succession plan
  1. Determine key leadership positions (administrator, practice manager, nurse manager, medical director)
  2. Create a small team from different departments to review each leadership position. Then assess job descriptions, and key job functions and responsibilities for each position
  3. Ask the individuals who currently hold each position to work closely with the team
  4. Identify key steps and action items for your plan. Be specific, outlining tasks, dates and resources
  5. Link your strategic plan and business objectives to each position
  6. Identify internal candidates for each position
  7. Evaluate the candidates’ capabilities and help them develop new skills to meet any gaps
  8. Develop a transition timeline
  9. Document progress
  10. Evaluate effectiveness

One of the major benefits of developing a succession plan is to retain your best employees. They will appreciate the time and attention you invest in them and will be motivated by the opportunity to advance in your organization.

Utilize this talent profile grid template to identify leadership potential based on performance. To use this tool, list names in each box as applicable to give a big-picture view of your team and staff:
talent profile grid template

To retain valuable employees and help them grow within your organization, use a professional development dashboard:
professional development dashboard

Use this succession planning template to develop a strategy to fill future gaps in leadership positions. When applicable, add in dates to help develop a timeline:
succession planning template
MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. See results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat

MGMA Consulting can help you to develop a sound succession planning process. Please contact us at or call 1-877-275-6462 ext. 1877.

Resources Learn more about MGMA Stat
Learn more about MGMA Consulting

About the Authors

Cristy Good
Cristy Good MPH, MBA, CPC, CMPE
Sr. Industry Advisor MGMA

Nick Fabrizio
Nick Fabrizio PhD, FACMPE, FACHE
Consultant MGMA Consulting

Nick A. Fabrizio, PhD, FACMPE, FACHE, is a consultant with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. He has more than 20 years of practice management and health system experience in private physician and large medical group practices, for-profit and non-profit hospitals and health systems, academic medical centers, physician faculty practice plans and ambulatory care networks. His primary expertise is in physician practice management and managing complex physician-hospital relationships.


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