SNL and Succession Planning

I recently heard about “succession readiness” vs. “succession planning.”  It’s an interesting twist on words to change it to a more active way of approaching your change management strategy around talent.  Instead of just planning, you are focusing on actually throwing employees into situations that make them ready for the next level.

As an almost life-long Saturday Night Live fan, I’ve seen many comedians come and go.   I was watching SNL tonight recently and as the opening credits rolled, it struck me that they open by listing all the “regulars”, then they follow that with their “featured” performers.  These featured performers are the up and coming cast members on the show.  I love that SNL actively demonstrates their succession readiness by showing us who the next generation of SNL stars will be.

Now, some will not make it because they won’t resonate with the public or they have other behind-the-scenes issues, but for the most part, we can get a little glimpse each week of the new generation of comedians and see how they are developing.  Do you remember when Will Ferrell first took the screen?  Probably not.  How about Jan Hooks, Martin Short, Chris Katan, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Tina Fey?  Nope.  What you do remember is that they ended up being really successful on the show and they made it funny. We also know that they joined on as young featured performers who eventually came to be key players in the success of the show.

Here are some key takeaways from the SNL Succession Readiness model:

  • Actively feature your up-and-coming talent
  • Give them opportunities to shine in front of your clients
  • Give them opportunities to fail and learn from it “live”

The best part about how SNL handles succession is the way that they prepare us, their customers, to accept the change. They manage us all along the way and when the time comes for a big name comedian to leave, they have already made us love the person that moves from “featured” player to “regular”.  Brilliant!