Organizations and companies across the nation are dealing with the exit of Baby Boomers in the work force. This has put succession planning on the map. According to, about 76 million baby boomers are eligible to retire by the end of the decade. This, along with the 8.8% decrease in the population between ages 25 and 34 projected by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), makes cultivating leaders from within an appealing and prudent activity. The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) is no stranger to the issues surrounding the aging work force. With an average employee age of 45 and employment tenures of 15-plus years, the agency is facing a leadership gap. When key positions are vacated, the talent pool is limited and many do not have the necessary experience to step into these leadership roles. Many organizations look to bring in leaders from the outside, but according to the Center for Creative Leadership, 66% of senior managers hired from outside organizations usually fail within the first 18 months. When Steve Banta, TriMet’s new executive director of operations, arrived in May 2007, he shared with the organization a succession planning project from his former employer, the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh. The focus of this program was teaching employees about the agency and the leadership skills needed to move into key positions. While Banta was in Pittsburgh, the program was very popular with employees and saw success for fast-tracking employees into leadership positions. In the past few years, Pittsburgh’s program was retooled in response to the volume of management changes occurring at the Port Authority. Inez Colon, director of employment for the Port Authority says the original succession planning program found and cultivated new leaders, but now focuses on training and developing those leaders and new hires to be successful in their new roles. Banta believed Pittsburgh’s original program made sense for TriMet’s Operations Division. With support from General Manager Fred Hansen and the executive team, he enlisted the help of the Organization Development and Work Force Development departments and launched the Operations Leadership Development Program (OLDP) in January 2008. Six participants were selected for the program on a six-month rotation in the Operations Division. This inaugural class completed their program in July 2008. The following is an outline of the program and the success of the program.


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