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6. Development, job, and organizational success are linked.

The most common characteristic of development plans that actually result in measurable changes is that they (creatively) frame pool members' development priorities in the context of the strategic business results for which the person is accountable. While development plans with no tangential relationship to the pool member's business objectives might be appealing in concept, the likely reality is that such plans, well intentioned as they might be, will fall to the bottom of the priority list given the many demands on the pool member's time.

At the start of each job or task force assignment, the manager and mentor ensure that the pool member clearly understands the business results to be achieved and their importance. This is the first topic of discussion in the development planning meeting so that most development activities can be set up to reinforce the performance objectives—not substitute for them. This is a far cry from some traditional high-potential programs, in which people served time in assignments with little pressure for performance.

7. Equal emphasis on selection, diagnosis, and development.

The problem with many succession management systems is that they emphasize identifying talent and diagnosing strengths to leverage and development needs rather than achieving development goals. Many organizations mistakenly believe that selecting people with potential and giving them feedback about their strengths and development needs are all that is necessary. They expect those receiving the feedback to take over from there. Our experience and research do not bear this out. Diagnosis without explicit development actions seldom pays off.

8. Development planning is done at the optimal time.

In traditional replacement-planning programs, high potentials are asked to fill out an Individual Development Plan immediately after completing a diagnostic assessment. At that point, however, they might or might not know what their next job or special assignment will be, much less what development opportunities will be offered. To make matters worse, the high potentials have no idea of what help to expect from their future manager. Most important, people get little help in thinking through possibilities because they have no one to challenge their reasoning or make alternative suggestions. As a result, many completed IDPs tend to be unfocused, vague, and simplistic, such as, "I'll work harder on that" or "I'll take a course that covers that."

In an Acceleration Pool, members formulate their development plans for specific targets suggested by the Executive Resource Board as well as additional targets that they choose for themselves. They do this at the start of each new job or special assignment—when they have a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges it entails. Because managers and mentors know the assignment, they can offer guidance in making creative, yet realistic plans and are in a position to commit to a certain level of assistance.

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