Most organisations today are short of ‘job-ready’ leaders, and urgently need
to identify people in their firms with the potential to learn and grow. They
then need to develop the leadership skills of these candidates through focused
training opportunities and developmental assignments.
Accelerating this process is critical if business opportunities are not to
be missed. These groups of high potential people are known as ‘acceleration
1. How acceleration pools work
Instead of developing one person for each executive position, an
acceleration pool develops many people to executive standards. Nominations for
the pool are based on job performance and sometimes assessment centre results.
Assessment centres also help to define specific individual development needs
and estimate how (and how quickly) the individuals will progress. A large
organisation might have three pools: one for supervisory level, one for middle
management and one directly below the senior level.
2. Various pools
Each pool, which might include one or two organisational levels, prepares
people for the next major step up in the organisation. Individuals might be in
two or three pools as they advance through the firm. Some individuals may
permanently remain in acceleration pools, jumping from one to another as they
move up through the firm.
3. HR systems important to acceleration centres
In order for acceleration pools to work, three important personnel systems
must be in place and working effectively.
The organisation’s performance management system gives members of
acceleration pools performance targets and feedback, the assessment system
helps the organisation determine who should move in and out of the acceleration
pool and what development they need, while human resource development tracks
the vital statistics, role history and development of acceleration pool
As they are linked to business plans and strategies, acceleration pools need
to be flexible. They require less paperwork for managers and take up less senior
managers’ time. Pools are more development-orientated with the emphasis on
discussing competency development, and they are extremely accurate. They should
not be used to forecast members’ potential roles two or three promotions down
5. Identifying people for an acceleration pool
Acceleration pools are often open for entry at any age or organisational
level. However, research carried out by DDI indicates that evaluations for
acceleration pools are more accurate if individuals have been working for
several years. They are less accurate for those entering jobs directly from
university or a different background.
6. Building blocks of talent
Acceleration pool members develop best through a series of short but
targeted training programmes. Focusing on defined, individualised learning
outcomes will distinguish the acceleration pool system from how most
organisations operate. Each person in the pool should develop their own
learning plan with the help of an assignment leader.
7. A say in their assignments
Acceleration pool members also need to have a voice in choosing their own
assignments. It is not appropriate to assume that individuals in the pool will
unquestioningly accept positions or assignments as offered.
8. Are there any pitfalls?
If an acceleration pool is too big, there will never be enough specific
focus, money, or time to make the system work.
9. The role of senior management
The key to success for any succession management programme is the support of
senior management. Only through the senior team’s ownership of the process will
managers throughout the organisation be able to make decisions that will allow
high-potential people to transfer from their departments to other assignments
in order to develop fully.