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Procurement Perspectives: Succession planning for the future of construction

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Succession planning for the future of construction

Since leaders tend to emerge from within construction organizations itself, the present leaders of an organization should consider the most effective method of providing for the next generation.

I attended the Canadian Construction Association conference this year in Vancouver and noticed a great deal of movement from people within the industry moving from one company to another. Usually moving up the management chain of command to senior leadership positions for rival companies.

Leaders of the construction industry should determine some method of best practice, passing along the benefit of their experience and wisdom to the upcoming generation of leadership.

Promoting within and creating other leaders who will be equipped to step into their shoes is vital to a company’s longevity and success.

In my experience, the most critical issues in the area of training and succession planning include the following:

  • Does the organization value junior employees and see them as its future, or is it the general attitude that it will be necessary to recruit elsewhere?
  • Is there a proper program in place to identify individuals who show leadership or managerial ability?
  • How does your organization assess leadership and managerial abilities?
  • Are junior managers properly mentored by senior managers?
  • Are there formal management training programs in place to train each successive level of manager to qualify for the next highest level of management?
  • Are there informal or extra- curricular programs in place?
  • Does the organization encourage continuous professional development and network building?
  • Does the organization seek mid-level “lateral hires” to replace similar staff who leave, or is everyone recruited at a junior level?
  • Are subordinate managers given the opportunity to take full responsibility for a project while working under close supervision of a more senior colleague?
  • Do all levels of management appreciate the need to train and develop the next generation of leaders (if so, what methods have been identified for doing so)?
  • Do workers see that they have a career path within the organization, or do they generally believe it will be necessary to move elsewhere to gain a promotion?
  • Does the organization send its workers from one department to another to allow them to gain a broader experience and understanding of overall organizational operations?
  • Are junior employees “in the loop” so that they will retain critical business knowledge concerning transactions and processes after their senior colleagues have left the organization?
  • To what extent is evidence of potential leadership skill and managerial ability factored into hiring decisions and at what level does this take place?
  • How can anyone be sure that hiring and promotion boards know what to look for (in terms of evidence of managerial ability) when making their decisions?

Where the leadership of an organization is unable to provide specific and detailed answers with respect to the above questions, there is good reason to be concerned with respect to the leadership training capability of the organization.

Continuous improvement and leadership development is not a once-and-for-all thing.

It requires an ongoing effort. Improvement is challenging.

It requires the ability to see things as they are, to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of one’s team, one’s competitors and oneself, while not being constrained by them.

It demands an imaginative view of the future, unbounded by the restrictions of the past. Improvement is about identifying and taking advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow as well as those of today.

One defining quality of great leadership is the ability to improve what we do and how we do it. Day-to-day management of an organization should be seen as an opportunity for refinement and fine tuning.

The goal is not to point out errors but to improve the process. In the words of Henry Ford: “Don’t find fault. Find remedy.”

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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