'I came back with gusto, lungs full, laptop (and pencil) poised and with best away-visit intentions started with my job. I am delighted to say we did fill my job with a great internal candidate'

Well folks, I am between jobs, and I.have a few pithy observations about succession planning and the like..

When the advert went out for a 'committed, respected, innovative' foundation trust chief executive, required for South Staffordshire (and Shropshire) Healthcare foundation trust, I had several calls from colleagues. Two were worried I had been sacked, several wanted to know where I was going, others fancied a crack at the job and one friend asked why the board wanted someone so different to me!

I am really pleased for South Staffordshire and Shropshire. We have succession planned for a chief executive and for a large part of a provider arm of a primary care trust. So what have we done and how does it feel?.What might be the implications for the future?

Systematic.staff development

We did some work over the last year with AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company. Having seconded - for significant personal development, I might add - one of their bright young things, we went to discover their talent identification and management system..

It was impressive that as a private sector company they valued and developed everyone systematically, but also talent-spotted the top 3-4 per cent - the potential high-flyers. These individuals got additional 'academy stimulus' and it made us redouble our efforts to think through how we continuously develop our key staff and people with future potential.

One of the most important things I learned.was about succession planning. How do you replace your best people and ensure business continuity in key roles? You must decide which are your crucial posts and then look to identify two alternate candidates.for each. This seemed.blindingly obvious, but it is something the NHS is not good at in my experience.

I came back with gusto, lungs full, laptop (and pencil) poised and with best away-visit intentions started with my job. I am delighted to say we did fill my job with a great internal candidate. I also feel the foundation trust network.mental health special interest group will move from strength to strength. Eight authorised mental health-style foundation trusts.and climbing, and plenty in the pipeline too, some with hybrid foundation trust.aspirations, I have been told.

Business as usual

Leaving after six years in South Staffordshire is a bit of an emotional.rollercoaster. We found 'business as usual', the best recipe, particularly with our Shropshire acquisition full on. Some of the business has been at punishing timescales too, as in most NHS patches, but it helps so much if the momentum is there. You will hear more in future about our contract transfer and asset purchase deal.

I thought this felt like succession planning on a wider scale where parts of, or whole organisations, move forward in more planned and measured ways. With thorough scrutiny and absolute clarity on the patient and other benefits to be achieved (integration plan), this can be a real improvement from traditional mergers and.acquisitions.

I am really looking forward to moving on to a new role, hopefully to plan some successes in Nottinghamshire Healthcare trust with all partners. I shall miss South Staffordshire and Shropshire, but I know it is in good hands.

I shall also miss writing this HSJ column and the feedback from my one loyal reader and the HSJ editor. Good luck with all your plans. I wish you every success in the future...

Mike Cooke is currently between jobs: South Staffordshire Healthcare foundation trust to Nottinghamshire Healthcare trust. He hopes to occasionally write for HSJ and to speak at events when they are desperate.