Who’s next? 3 tips for implementing a successful succession plan

[This was written for the Radiology Department, but the parallels to the needs of an HTM department are obvious.  There are some lessons to be learned in this article.  Pat Lynch]
Oct 06, 2016 | Michael Walter
Leadership is crucial in modern radiology, whether at a private practice, an academic practice or a hospital’s radiology department. But when a group’s leader leaves, who takes their place? Is a qualified candidate available and ready to step in?

Radiology groups must develop a thorough succession plan to ensure a smooth transition from one leader to the next, according to a recent analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Lead author E. Michael Donner III, MD, Radiology Specialists of the Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and colleagues explained that leadership among radiologists often defaults to “those willing to do it,” but choosing the right leader for the job is too important to be taken lightly.

“When effective leadership is absent, radiology groups are vulnerable to significant exposure: loss of revenue through lack of financial oversight, loss of patient volumes through lack of business development and potential replacement through lack of presence and lack of alignment with hospital systems and healthcare plans,” the authors wrote. “As in other businesses, the leadership of radiology groups plays a major role in their success.”

These are three helpful tips provided by Donner et al. for implementing a successful succession plan:

1. Promote from within

When possible, leaders should come from within an organization. Even if a future leader isn’t absolutely perfect, Donner and colleagues said, if they show potential and are open to improving themselves, they should at least be considered for the job.

“The only way to have a robust and reliable succession plan is to map succession to the available internal talent, identify the deficiencies in these individuals, and design and implement development plans to overcome the identified deficiencies,” the authors wrote. “Successful succession planning, therefore, should be a program of internal talent identification, followed by development and management of selected individuals for each designated area of responsibility.”

Mentoring and coaching are both crucial parts of any effective succession plan. Mentoring, the authors explain, includes one-on-one meetings between the potential leader and the individual currently holding that position. Coaching is similar, yet different; it occurs between the potential leder and outside consultants.

2. Succession planning never stops

Radiology groups can’t develop their succession plan and then move on to other issues; doing so would kill momentum and defeat the whole purpose of planning to begin with.

“Succession planning is not episodic but is a continuous process that consists not only of talent recognition but also succession management, which includes talent development and retention of high-potential individuals within the organization,” the authors wrote.

3. Education resources for potential leaders are available

Conner and colleagues listed some of the options potential leaders have to improve their leadership abilities in preparation for one day taking on such a responsibility.

College MBA and executive MBA programs are one option, they said, and the American College of Radiology’s Radiology Leadership Institute is another valuable resource.

“In addition, professional societies such as the RSNA, the ACR, the ARRS, and the Radiology Business Managers Association offer a variety of business courses,” the authors wrote.