Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Understanding Succession Planning and Management Efforts at Midwestern University: A Mixed Methods Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Judith Zimmerman

Second Advisor

Jennifer Gillespie (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Paul Longenecker (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (Committee Member)


The purpose of this concurrent triangulation mixed methods study was to understand the status of succession planning and management (SPM) efforts of the subject university as perceived by the fulltime academic and fulltime administrative staff. Four research questions guided this study: (1) how do fulltime academic staff and fulltime administrative staff generally evaluate the status of the university’s SPM efforts? (2) How do fulltime academic staff and fulltime administrative staff perceive eight SPM practices taking place at their respective colleges and administrative units? (3) Do the perceived eight SPM practices differ by occupational role, college, service years, and gender? (4) How do fulltime academic staff and fulltime administrative staff evaluate some factors associated with SPM processes at the university?

A survey was electronically administered to 1,530 participants, of whom 414 were material respondents. Also, six participants were purposely selected and interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Moreover, some policy documents of the studied university were reviewed. Whereas quantitative methods were employed to analyze survey responses, content analysis techniques were used to analyze qualitative data from interview transcripts, open-ended survey responses, and documents reviewed.

Several findings emerge from this study. First, although the subject university seems to informally implement a few SPM practices in certain administrative units and colleges, the status of SPM efforts at the university is generally inadequate. Participants indicated the need for improving SPM efforts through an urgent introduction of a systematic SPM program.

Second, results suggest that the university does not adequately implement eight SPM practices except for a few informal, individual-driven cases. Moreover, perception differences on SPM practices were observed for some groups. For example, perception differences on some practices were noted by groups representing occupational role, college, and service years.

Third, aside from findings related to three a priori factors—diversity consideration on SPM, impact of current economic recession, and impact of government policies and laws—study results suggest several additional factors affecting SPM efforts at the studied university. These factors include unsuitable organizational culture for SPM, organizational leadership challenges, hindering hiring and promotion policies and practices, as well as budget and financial limitations. Moreover, the subject university is likely to lose about 25% of its fulltime academic and administrative members within the next five years.

Consequently, this study proposes general recommendations to policy makers, practitioners, and researchers. For instance, researchers are encouraged to use this study as a springboard to carry out follow-up inquiries at the Midwestern University, investigate SPM efforts in other academic institutions, and conduct additional studies for refining and enriching theoretical frameworks needed in the SPM field. Also, to address the prevailing SPM and leadership challenges at the subject university, the study offers several specific recommendations. The subject university, for example, is recommended to review its policy framework in order to give SPM a high priority. Also, the university is urged to conduct further research in order to determine a suitable SPM strategy. Moreover, the subject university needs to cultivate the institutional culture that promotes effective succession planning and management efforts.