At Work: Law and Governance - Regulation with Rosie

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on succession planning.

Today of all days is a day to consider succession planning. Like the Prime Minister, chief executives do more than direct the processes by which business is done. In the course of their tenure, they are constantly making decisions that will decide their organisations' priorities for some time to come.

Competent outgoing chief executives will probably look at their organisations and try to ensure they finish what they themselves started. Professional courtesy and personal pride demand that loose ends are tied up so that successors don't inherit shaky supply contracts or policies that haven't been signed off by stakeholders.

Outgoing chief executives should not try to batten everything down. Your neatly tied-up ends might tie your successors' hands behind their backs. Although incoming chief executives don't want to be faced with signing off last year's accounts, they will want the freedom to take their own decisions and make changes. Signing the contract that ties your charity into a 10-year fundraising deal on your last day as chief executive isn't something your successor will appreciate.

Do what is right for your organisation. This might mean the outgoing and incoming chief executives locking themselves away for a week and working through a detailed agenda. Or the incomer might commit to a day or two away with the incumbent and representatives from all parts of the charity, so as to provide a thorough all-round working brief on which to build.

In an ideal world, both incoming and outgoing chief executives would be prepared to spend time ensuring new leaders start with as much knowledge as possible.

Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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