Recent surveys of chief executive officers rank management succession planning as one of the most critical issues facing organizations today. As stated previously in the discussion of organizational pressures for comprehensive human resource planning, the reasons for concern include competition, the narrowing technology gap, a narrowing gap in managerial talent, and an improved average educational level throughout the workforce.

Increasingly, companies are recognizing the importance of the placement of outstanding management talent in their key management positions and superior bench strength to fill those positions when vacated. IBM, Corning Glass Works, Exxon, General Electric, and Citicorp are leaders in terms of developing a supply of well-qualified managerial talent. Because their executive succession planning processes have excellent reputations and are considered industry models, they have been selected as representative case studies cited in the literature. Citicorp, IBM, Exxon, and GE were each mentioned a number of times by the senior human resource executives who participated in this study as organizations having model succession planning processes.

Corning Glass has been included here because it offers an example of an organization that initiated ESP under the stress of economic pressures. It also provides an example of an organization that is still struggling with the process and provides insight into some of the difficulties that can be encountered in contrast to the success stories the other four cases offer. However, the ESP approach among these companies differs and researchers agree that there is no single approach to management succession and development planning. Differences in programs and processes are attributed to several factors mentioned previously in this literature review; namely, organizational structure, management style, organization size, and rate of organizational growth. An analysis of these factors should precede the development of any executive succession planning effort.

 As the field of human resource management is still in the pre-paradigm stage without a generally agreed-upon definition or model, it is important to describe current practices as accurately as possible.