Few CIOs involved in agency succession planning


Most federal information technology executives are not involved in their department’s succession planning activities, according to a new workforce study.

The 25 IT executives included in the ACT-IAC (American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council) study said their agency’s succession planning program and human capital resource management strategy were either partially developed or poorly developed or non-existent. Seventy percent said they were not included in succession planning discussions.

None of the 16 human capital executives surveyed had metrics that measured whether their agency’s succession, skills and management needs were being met.

 “The human capital practitioners felt as though they are delivering succession planning programs as they are required to do by the Office of Personnel Management,” Dr. Susan Grunin, who chairs the ACT-IAC group that commissioned the study, said in a statement. “However, one of the key results we found is that many IT operational managers are not aware these program[s]exist in their areas. If they are aware, many find them to be ineffective at producing managers capable of executing agency initiatives.”

Other findings include:

– Intra-agency succession planning does not happen uniformly across government.

– Internal communications in this area are often ineffective.

– Some agency IT operational managers develop and use their own internal succession planning processes.

However, NASA and Commerce Department were touted as having good succession planning structures that require senior officials to develop, maintain and operate human capital programs based on the agency’s goals and objectives. Both programs allow management at multiple levels to provide feedback.

In a TechAmerica CIO survey released in May, the IT trade organization found that 52 percent of CIOs do not have formal succession plans to replace retiring leaders and top managers. The consequence of not doing so could mean a downward spiral in IT leadership capability, according to TechAmerica.

In its study, ACT-IAC recommends that agencies:

– Publicize their management development and succession planning widely. NASA uses monthly reports, video-conferencing and intranet sites to get the word out.

– Include rotational assignments for their managers as part of succession planning.

– Train new agency leaders on the purpose and benefits of succession planning.

The study also recommends that OPM provide a virtual or in-person succession planning forum for agencies to learn best practices and updates on succession planning policies.



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  1. moretothestory on

    Despite its strategic value to federal operations, succession planning continues to languish as it has for several decades. Ironically, succession planning was one of six key HR areas HR Officers were tasked to resolve when they were upgraded to Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) in 2002. Succession planning along with the federal hiring process, leadership development, performance management, employee conduct and poor performance were identified then as the most pervasive and complex challenges confronting the Federal HR community which CHCOs were tasked with resolving. While it has been a little over ten years since to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and consistency of HR programs – no government wide improvements have been in any of these areas! This is despite the fact that CHCOs and their Deputies have dutifully expended a great deal of time, effort and taxpayer funds attending important monthly meetings, CHCO Academy Sessions, CHCO Summits, convening various committee and subcommittees, supporting various task force studies and including CHCO retreats and seminars at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, VA. One need only read public newspapers and federal employee columns and employee blogs calling for needed reforms that were promised by upgrading HR Officers to CHCOs a decade ago! Today’s federal hiring process, leadership development and succession planning, performance management, employee conduct and poor performance are ALL arguably in greater need of reform today than before HR Officers were upgraded to CHCOs! Past and current GAO reports repeatedly report succession planning continues to be a problem for agencies including the largest agencies with the highest graded CHCOs and largest HR workforces in government!

    Indicative of poor or lack of succession planning can be seen agencies unable to keep pace with growing workload demands seeking quick fixes i.e. additional funding and more FTEs to meet short-term workload needs such as the OPM as indicated by their inability to foresee or process retirement applications timely including their inability to develop or much less simply upgrade existing software applications such as USAJOBAs.

    A recent article in the news highlighted the shortage of trained and experienced acquisition specialists within the DoD. This is perplexing as both Congress and taxpayers have provided DOD with unprecedented resources and funding specifically to ensure the sufficiency of well trained and experienced acquisition personnel are readily available to meet DoD needs. These efforts resulted from DoD’s poor succession planning and poor employee conduct problems of the 1980s warranting a systemic approach to succession planning. Believing the solution was to “professionalize” acquisition personnel DoD’s best and brightest human capital practitioners came up with a “low hanging fruit” solution to simply require a four year college degree for all DoD acquisition personnel. This superfluous four year college degree became a requirement for all acquisition personnel government wide in January 2000. In addition to the four year degree for “professionalizing” acquisition personnel human capital practitioners at DoD successfully lobbied Congress to establish a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) citing national interests and national security warranted trained acquisition professionals to meet DoD’s changing workload needs. Established by Congress in October 1991 the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) included 5 college-level campuses at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Huntsville, Alabama, San Diego, California, California, Maryland and, Kettering, Ohio each with an additional cluster of 4 to 5 satellite offices including offices overseas. In its FY2011 Annual Report, DAU reported a budget of $208.6 million, 717 faculty and staff and partnerships with over 160 colleges and universities DAU reported it provided 11.2 million hours of learning, graduated a total of 202,970 students (146,152 online graduates and 56,818 classroom graduates); provided 624,556 hours of mission assistance, offered 314 online continuous learning modules and provided 1.7 million contact hours on the Defense Acquisition Portal and the Acquisition Community Connection. With so many graduates and why then are we still reading about a shortage of acquisition personnel with the DoD? GAO has repeatedly criticized DOD’s lack of systemic human capital management plans in their reports. Of all agencies one would think DoD would be able to tap essential competencies from their best and brightest human practitioners (which as a group also represent the largest workforce of human capital practitioners of all agencies) for meeting ongoing succession needs at the DoD.

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