The process of identifying and developing new leaders in a company is an initiative that, many times, takes place when a position becomes vacant.  Best practices dictate that succession planning should be a way of life for a company, rather than an activity that is stimulated by the departure of a key employee.  Keeping the leadership pipeline full is the responsibility of senior management, human resources, board members, and other key stakeholders.  An ongoing collaborative effort to develop programs and initiatives that leverage internal talent, and provide additional skills to key employees, is imperative to building a talent bench in any organization.   Utilizing a position matrix is an effective tool for analyzing the positions within each functional area of a company, and identifying “rising stars”.  Conducting a skills analysis of incumbents within a company is a good next step in building a succession planning model.  While identifying competencies that are needed within the company in order to fill each tier of management can be time-consuming, it is an invaluable process which provides a foundation for talent management across the organization.  Cross-checking the skills that are needed for key positions with the skills that incumbents possess, serves as the baseline for creating development plans to prepare future leadership within a company.   Sometimes, it is necessary to bring a candidate in from the external market.  Having a roadmap of the desired skills, abilities, and expertise for a particular position results in better hiring decisions, more effective training for the new incumbent, and, ultimately, having the new leader become a key contributor in a short amount of time. Mary Rizzuti, CCP, PHR, SHRM-CP,