I was recently asked to speak at a workshop. My topic was People, the most important resource of all. My immediate thought was to highlight the age-old question of succession planning and sport. This has been a topic of discussion many times and often the response is that many sports are too small to offer a real succession pathway. So, what is the alternative?

We are all aware of the many challenges our industry faces when it comes to succession or ‘people’ planning. While we all may agree with the concept of succession planning, current staffing structures or tight purse strings might not support such a shift.

So why not flip this view and give the individuals who are on a career journey in sport the tools to manage their own succession planning? For those on this journey, this fundamentally means considering where you want to go. Start to map out a five-year plan based around your ideal role and then focus your energy on achieving this.

Organisations can assist with this journey by using a collaborative approach. When both employers and employees take responsibility for considering succession planning, this burden can be shared. The best time to do this is when looking at new roles. Map out the path the new role will take and meet with the employee to discuss how they think they could move the position forward or what steps they need to take to fulfil their dream role. This would be a win-win situation. The cost of losing someone you have already invested in through training, time and knowledge transfer will undoubtedly set your organisation back, and the growth the team member experiences will be greater if they can continue on a clear path within the same organisation. However, at some point we all need that next challenge and encouragement to take the next step on the career journey.

Sometimes the answer can be as easy as providing a mentor to further develop a person’s skills, or experiences that allow them to grow outside of the role they are currently carrying out. These steps do not have to be expensive or a drain on your current resources. Customising your approach, as well as the path members of your team can explore will result in gains for both your organisation and your people.

When operating in an ever-evolving environment such as that experienced in sport, a good organisation structure is the key to achieving your strategic business goals, but what makes a good structure?

Many organisations try to answer this question by employing good people, but having good people is only part of what makes a good structure.

To help drive your organisation forward, your organisation structure needs to have a good foundation and be strong enough to withstand changing conditions. You need to be sure your organisation will pick up the wind and sail forward, not capsize at the first sign of a ripple.

When doing a review of your organisation’s structure, it is important to take the time to look at your existing structure and assess whether it is built on a strong foundation. Does it have a clear plan and the right support structures in place?

Putting in place a clear strategic plan will help you develop a strong foundation for your organisation structure, however sporting organisations are often stretched for time and resources and try to push ahead to establish or review an organisation structure without a proper plan in place. Without pressing the pause button and looking at where it is you want your organisation to go, and how you are going to get there, you could end up with a ‘cart before the horse’ scenario where the strategic plan is built around the structure. This can result in the structure driving the direction of the organisation and can lead to the organisation going in a direction that is not financially viable or not delivering against the core business of the sport.

Once you have a clear plan in place, ensuring your organisation structure is strong enough to withstand any changes to the operating environment can be achieved by making sure you have the right people in the right areas to support the structure and that they are equipped to hold up under new challenges.

Operating in an evolving environment can be challenging and your organisation needs an element of flexibility to withstand these challenges. If you have not identified the stress points within your organisation structure, your organisation can suffer. These could be areas where some flexibility may be required within a job role, and of the person filling that role.

One of the biggest stress points within an organisation structure can be having a central load where one person carries the workload and keeps years of knowledge and experience in their head. When that person leaves, or the central load becomes too much, cracks will begin to show. If you have not put the right succession plan in place, it won’t be long until there is significant instability in your structure. This could then result in attention being diverted away from the organisation’s strategic goals to deal with ‘fire-fighting’ in order to minimise the disruption. This break in strategic direction can be enough to send an organisation crashing down, especially if it results in a loss of funding focus in an industry where funds are limited.

When building or reviewing your organisational structure, time and attention must be given to utilising the skills you need to reach your strategic business objectives. You may have some existing people who are skilled in a particular area, but these skills may not be what you need to drive your organisation forward. This could then lead to high financial and momentum costs for your organisation, paying salaries for skills that aren’t being utilised and a deficit in meeting strategic goals as individual goals aren’t being met. The flow-on from this could be disgruntled people whose skills are not being utilised and are struggling with demands outside of their range of expertise, or from those who are having to carry the load to fill the skills-gap. As a result, the organisation’s culture could suffer and the strategic direction be de-railed. Attracting the right people may also become more difficult if the culture is negative and the organisation could experience a downward spiral.

The right strategic plan coupled with the right people in the right roles will help avoid your organisation collapsing from within. Taking the time to review your organisational structure is not always possible in a fast-paced sporting industry, so if you need an expert who has the time to take a step back and give well-considered advice, contact us today.