Job handover

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Original Message

From: Juliana Caicedo, posted on 2012/01/31

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you well.

Today, I'm writing to seek you advice on how to best conduct job handovers and ensure that knowledge, both explicit and implicit, is transferred in the most effective manner. Some of the questions that I am pondering today is whether we should have a standard procedure in place or whether it is better to leave it to the people involved to decide how to do the handover, provided they actually do it. What are your thoughts on this? If you favour an established procedure and you have one to share, I would be grateful to receive a copy of it (so far, I have only found 2003 BMZ internal memo and guiding questions for job handover).

Also, we are wondering if we need a different approach for handovers between people going in and out of the field, who, often times, do not coincide in the same place, at the same time. This situation, as well as the cases where a post is vacant for a while, prevents the face-to-face handover during which individuals are willing to share much of the tacit knowledge that they would be hesitant to put in writing. People could certainly use videconference, telephone or skype for a virtual meeting, but in any case I'm curious to hear how your organizations deal with this situation.

Any thoughts and ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Juliana Caicedo

Contributors

All replies in full are available in the discussion page. Contributions received with thanks from:

Brad Hinton
Brandon Szabo
Charles Dhewa
Daan Boom
Eva Schiffer
Ewen Le Borgne
Jaap Pels
Jasmin Suministrado
Jennifer Nelson
Josef Hofer-Alfeis
Lizzie Wiltshire
M Jahangir
Mark Hammersley
Megan Gaventa
Paul Corney
Philippe Hermant
Ram Babu Nepal
Rinko Kinoshita
Sarah Bel
Satish Nagaraji
Tony Pryor
Waled Mahmud

Related Discussions

Job handover

On 31 January 2012, Juliana Caicedo (CIDA) asked the community for advice on how to best conduct job handovers and ensure that knowledge, both explicit and implicit, is transferred in the most effective manner - whether using a specific procedure or not.


Introduction

On 31 January 2012, Juliana Caicedo (CIDA) asked the community for advice on how to best conduct job handovers and ensure that knowledge, both explicit and implicit, is transferred in the most effective manner - whether using a specific procedure or not.


Keywords

Tacit knowledge, job, handover, job handover, exit interview, knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, leaving expert, debriefing, lessons learnt, human resources.


Detailed Description

What is the ideal job handover scenario? How to tap into the knowledge, information and network of a leaving staff and ensure a smooth transition for newcomers? If addressed at all - which is not a given in many organisations - this type of concerns falls in the remit of human resource management (HRM) staff, whether they worked with the leaving staff or not. Yet there are many facets to this scenario that are totally related to knowledge management, knowledge sharing and involve many others, beyond HRM:

  • What goes with the departing staff member, which should be capitalised on?
  • What happens with the newcomer, if there is indeed a successor to that position?
  • What can the departing staff member do to leave behind some of his/her assets with the organisation - both formally and informally, as a requirement or on their own volition, alone or together with the newcomer?
  • How to turn this sometimes tragic event into a fruitful learning opportunity?

Those were the questions toyed around in this rich discussion. Here are some pointers:

What should be capitalised on when someone leaves? When a person leaves an organisation, they bring with them a lot of: knowledge and experience about how to deal with some situations (both according to the book and according to the applicable contextual wisdom), information that helps get the job done, contacts that matter for the work that the person was doing - internally and externally - and crucially a lot of insights about who *really* matters in the work and what should be cared for. The case of trust was highlighted as a particularly important aspect: when handing over a job, don't just hand over your contacts, explain whom you trust and why and what should be done with them.

What happens with the newcomer if there is indeed a successor? For most people starting a new job, there is very little guidance, if any. Sometimes some handover notes are available. Sometimes - rarely it seems - a list of contacts. More often than not, the new person doesn't really know how to *really* handle the job, especially when dealing with complicated or even complex (highly interconnected, knowledge- and people-intensive) activities. If the departing staff worked in a team, it can therefore be more difficult to get started, particularly in the absence of codified procedures/guidelines. It can also be a chance however, as other team members may fill in the newcomer.

What does the departing staff member do to leave something behind? A wide range of options were discussed, from bare minimums (which still may not happen) to complex and rich procedures. The bottomline is: it depends on the organisational commitment to use the transition between staff members as a learning opportunity and on the personal preferences of the person leaving/coming.

  • At minimum the departing staff should inform supervisor, partners and clients and putting the potential successor in contact with them;
  • Better yet is to leave some handover notes describing the activities. Focusing on the informal side of things and the 'this is how you do it for real' tips and tricks is usually much more helpful than focusing on formal procedures and requirements. Focusing on the 'function (of the departing staff) in the projects/activities' is arguably more helpful than looking at the 'function in the organisation' when preparing handover notes. These handover notes may also be supported by the organisation and e.g. reviewed annually during staff appraisal.
  • And again focusing on the trust is great to give a sense of the purpose behind the activities/projects in which the departing staff was involved and the newcomer will have to be involved. It respects the lifecycle of those activities/projects better and ensures better success than looking at a series of disconnected tasks.
  • If in a team, developing process maps or other guidelines describing the work and ensuring that no critical activity depends on any one staff member are must-haves;
  • In parallel one might be asked or decide to conduct Exit Interviews. Those can be as simple as asking what went well and what went not, be organised as public seminars (also for newcomers by the way), be audio- or video-recorded etc. These exit interviews aim at talking about different things, and in a different way (about relationships etc, rather than just processes and procedures). They do take time, though.
  • At any rate, the use of stories (sometimes along a timeline) elicits a lot of insights from the departing staff member, as well as the perception of others (colleagues, partners, clients) about him/her and his/her work.
  • Some people prefer the structure of handover notes and guidelines, others prefer the conversation. Combining the two is probably best so...
  • ...If at all possible, the departing and coming staff members should have a conversation about the job. If they overlap for some time this allows deeper guidance and a smoother handover process - but this is rare. The case described by Philippe Hermant seems ideal here: over a month, have a scoping of activities (week 1), a bit of theory behind them (week 2), double-handed flight (the newcomer operates with the leaving staff - week 3) and fire-fighting interventions (autonomous newcomer, leaving staff coming in only if need be).
  • Once the departing staff member has indeed left, it is essential to keep their contact details in case of questions - and for them to make themselves over a period of time to ensure that overlap - at least virtually. It usually doesn't take too long before the newcomer feels autonomous enough.
  • It's (probably) impossible to retain 100% of the knowledge, expertise, experience and other intangible assets of a leaving person - as it is impossible to replace a person 1 for 1 - and we should also accept that.

Other matters to turn knowledge loss into learning opportunity?

  • There are different activities that a departing staff was taking care of; and different levels of importance or risk. Thinking thoroughly about the risk potential and the criticality of the activity helps focus on those in priority, in the handover phase.
  • This is very similar to the process of 'knowledge expert interviews' where critical knowledge is questioned to be better understood and potentially codified into guidelines and lessons learnt for others to make use of that expertise.
  • Not only the departing staff member has a lot to share: the newcomer also comes up with a whole set of competences, stories, experiences. When they come - with fresh eyes - they are better placed to question and challenge the organisational culture and its potentially dysfunctional aspects and to suggest practices and ideas that were applied in their previous working environments. Inviting opportunities to learn from newcomers is a trademark of bold (learning) organisations.
  • Drawing an influence network for the newcomer, and discussing the relationships around the edges can also be a powerful way of teasing out challenges and opportunities for the team or even the organisation as a whole.

KM4Dev Discussions

  • The resigning person should properly inform everything to his/her supervisor and clients / professionally related organizations about leaving the position and connecting them with the new person. (Waled Mahmud)
  • Perhaps the Snowdens' leaders framework for decision makers / Cynefin dimensions help out here: Simple work: make it explicit; it is already probably; people are sort of replacable - Complicated work: you probably were not working on your own so off-load your expertise to the team (should be done already) - Complex: leave some indicators / think hooks behind. Try and have a conversation with the successor. (Jaap Pels)
  • Use existing resources from People in Aid and general HRM resources (Mark Hammersley) and read the paper about 'leaving expert debriefings'. (Josef Hofer-Alfeis)
  • A job handover is more difficult in a team - even more difficult if the team doesn't have procedures in place and hasn't been communicating throughout. A simple excel sheet of pending tasks and assignments based on his/her individual workplan would help. And ensuring that all the work does not depend on just one person is ideal. (Jasmin Suministrado).
  • Simple is beautiful: just asking 'What has been good about your experience here, and what you would do differently' is already great. Ideally there should be overlap and ongoing discussions between departing and arriving staff. Finally, we can never capture all knowledge, network etc. and that's unavoidable so it's ok (Ewen Le Borgne).
  • Developing a standard template for handover and adapting it to specific functions + introducing exit interview with supervisor is great. Handover notes can be prepared for all who served more than a year and can be updated annually. Supervisors may ensure that the handover note is updated by staff member during staff performance review. (Ram Bapu)
  • Organise a month transition between staffs and every week of that month, zoom in: a) general scoping b) theory c) double-handed flight (departing and arriving staff working together) d) newcomer autonomous and fire-fighting interventions by departing staff. Have a 'no-change' transition period for the newcomer to be well aware of their duties and the purpose of the transition. Keep the phone number of the departing staff (Philippe Hermant).
  • Some people want templates and a structured guide, while others say with dismay ?please, not another template to fill!?. (Juliana Caicedo).
  • Even short term interventions are longer than a year from start to finish, while almost anything worth doing has a life cycle of many years/decades. And it is extremely difficult to transfer knowledge from one "generation" to the next. Certainly least effective is simply to hand over project documents and contact info but that leaves very little information about how to do the job in practice. More useful is to pass along detailed interviews of the predecessor talking about what the next person needs to know, along with that person's contact info, plus info from THAT person's predecessor. We think of a program's life cycle, or of a person's life cycle in an organization (ie a career), but not a functional life cycle - the role of senior health officer, or Ambassador, or extension worker, or for that matter of Minister, or village leader, or member of parliament. In many instances, while the FUNCTION may be constant through the life of a program,. and the life of the problem it was addressing may be constant, people do tend to come and go. FAR more critical to success is to hand over *trust* - trust of the person in the country, be it a farmer, or a minister, or a shop clerk - in the external agent. What this means: "handover" means handing over replacement to the counterpart, and to the people the predecessor was involved with, and to having them focus on the longer term purpose and intent of it all. (Tony Pryor)
  • Check Steve Trautman's ways to identify where there are high-risk areas in expertise/roles/responsibilities that are susceptible to turnover, and practical steps to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to new staff. (Brandon Szabo)
  • A useful way can be to leave some notes about how to *really* get the job done: what can you ask (or not) to whom, how to get this and that done, by whom etc. And leaving a description of the emotional-intellectual state of affairs with key partners really helps get into the boots of a departing staff (Ewen Le Borgne).
  • There is just as important a value in asking a NEW employee about their previous work experiences and previous organisational contexts. The idea is to see if these experiences/practices/ways of doing things might be useful for the new employer. Was there something in a previous workplace that was done well that could be introduced into the new organisational context? In other words, there may be some insights that a new employee can bring to the job and/or the organisation based on previous workplace experiences. Do new employees have something to offer to a new organisation based on previous workplace experiences and observations (other than the skills they were hired for). (Brad Hinton)
  • Process maps can help understand the flow of tasks & interactions, to describe work steps, how it flows, the interaction with internal/external stakeholders. (Sarah Bel)
  • There is usually an overlap time that can be used. A colleague leaving is also an opportunity to learn and organisations should be brave enough to hire different types of staff, not more of the same (though that's not easy). Content and context matter! (Jaap Pels)
  • Stories help us bring to life the real meaning of what departing staff were doing. Narrative techniques help organisations present their stories (how it works/big events/its future) as seen through the lens' of different people/stakeholders. Using a timeline can be a powerful way of getting people in an organisation to tell what it is they are really interested in learning about. The same technique can be applied in exit interviews as a way of finding out what really happens in the informal activities we call 'below the line' (the way we do things around here) as opposed to the more formal processes 'above the line' as often written in procedures manuals. Very often the exit interview focuses on the formal and misses out the informal because there is no mechanism to get at it.(Paul Corney)
  • In each of the assignments we've undertaken with development banks (and indeed on a mission to Sudan with WHO in 2010) we've used a timeline as a way of getting people in an organisation to tell us what it is they are really interested in learning about. That provided the basis on which we then reviewed with interviewees and working groups those events using a narrative grid. We capture those grids and the stories that come out which then become more illuminating examples of the organisation at work the roles in it. (Paul Corney)
  • Sometimes real meaning in a new job can come from figuring out things on your own. As a newcomer, you can/should come up with new ideas and question what you don't like about the organisational culture - it can even be rewarded by true leaders. (Charles Dhewa)
  • Organising seminars for newcomers and departing staff to share their perspectives is great. Talking and engaging in a life audience is better than documenting. (Dan Boom)
  • Recorded exit interviews allow people to talk about different things, and in a different way (about relationships etc, rather than just processes and procedures). Listening to an interview could be more engaging than reading handover notes. But it could be much harder in a large organisation as it could take up quite a lot of staff time. (Liz Wiltshire) *Contact lists would also be good to include in the list of items to hand over. (Megan Gaventa)
  • Drawing an influence network map with the person leaving the job or their colleagues might be extremely helpful. Often the leaving staff who has a lot of knowledge would be willing to share but just doesn't know how. Mapping that knowledge helps identify major opportunities and bottlenecks and find ways to deal with them, to get introduced to major influencers to get help. How does it work: explore together: Who are all the people/groups/organizations that will influence that whether I will do a great job here - positive and negative influence? How are these people linked to each other? What kinds of links matter depends a bit on the kind of job, e.g. "formal hierarchy", "money flows", "friendship, positive informal connections", "conflict, competition, negative informal connections". What are their goals/motivations with regards to my job? How strongly will they be able to influence my success? And map it all out physically. (Eva Schiffer)
  • Top-down commitment/institutional buy-in is necessary for staff to comply with any job handover procedure; (Rinko Kinoshita)
  • On top of leaving handover notes, being available for the long term via phone/skype/email is really helpful for the newcomer and it usually doesn't take so long for new staffs to feel autonomous enough. (Jennifer Nelson)
  • Try and find an object (and ask colleagues and others) to find an object that describes the departing staff and to tell a story around it, as it reveals finer 'process-y' details about a person. (Paul Corney)
  • A similar approach is the 'knowledge expert interview'. It consists of a panel of experts interviewing a departing expert based on a set of predetermined questions. The interview is video or audio recorded, edited and tagged for later consultation. Given the resources and energy that such an approach requires, it is used for holders of critical knowledge. This and other interesting techniques offer practical advice for the transfer of tacit knowledge and address the challenges of doing it in a multigenerational environment. (Juliana Caicedo)
  • Exit interviews are usually done by HR departments, not those that actually care for the work. It can be helpful to accompany staff while they're on job rather than departing. Focus on the team/organisation's needs (as in the piece by Steve Trautman) is great. (Tony Pryor)
  • Transparency and reliance on multiple eyeballs on the same tasks are really helpful for a smoother handover. (M Jahangir).


Examples in Application

Examples from: CIFAD, ICIMOD, ILO, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, IRC, OPCW, Sparknow, UNICEF, USAid and 3 other organisations - listed below in order of appearance in the conversation.

  • I conducted the evaluation of institutional memory and knowledge transfer in 2005/2006. Senior managers and selected staff members interviewed during the course of evaluation shared their view that there is significant loss of institutional memory and knowledge due to lack of standard template for handover and administrative instruction in place that makes it mandatory. As a result two recommendations were made to the management. (a) Develop a standard template for handover with the flexibility to expand it to meet specific information need of particular division. (b) Introduce exit interview before departure with supervisor or other staff member designated by supervisor. Implementation of these recommendations have made significant contribution in protecting institutional knowledge from loss although there are rooms for improvement. Handover note has to be prepared by all staff member who served more than a year and needs to be updated annually. Supervisors are required to ensure that handover note is updated by staff member during performance review at the end of the year. (Ram Bapu, Nepal, about OPCW)
  • What we would ususally organize is a minimum one month transition, maybe more for some complex cases. During this transition we would bring-up some phases for progressive take-over, like any project. Week 1 is a scope definition, before entering into details in week 2. Only theory, nothing practical at first. Then week 3 is where the newcomer will act under the control of the leaving person (double handed flight). Week 4 is when the not-so-much-already-newcomer is acting autonomously with the intervention only-in-case-of-extreme-fire of the leaving person. We had an experience like that 4 years ago with a team in Morocco and 4 brazilians to take over the job. The discussions were very opened, everybody was willing to understand or to share anything. Only when it came to practice did we have to explain the transition model which came by naturally: "I explained how to drive my car. Now, go, and drive it !"Pressure came by at two moments: during some complex urgent actions, when you can distinguish experienced people from newcomer of course. And when we had to be sure that everything was handed over: you never can be 100% sure. So we had some repeating questions, or people getting tired. But at least with the 2 weeks of practice, you have a good guess of what would be 80% of the work. All of this was documented, signed and stored in a document system. One important point was to agree on the terms of transition: no re-organization was to happen before a certain amount of time to avoid any disruption. I mean by this, that it's important to picture what is the goal of this transition and knowledge transfer. Even if it can be heartbreaking, depressing or stressing sometime, with a goal in mind, and like for any other project, you have more chances to do a smooth hand over. Oh, of course, don't forget to ask for the mobile phone number of the leaving person ! (Philippe Hermant, about ??)
  • In all of the years I worked at USAID, no one asked me to let them know what my successor needed to know. Several successors reached out informally, and one orchestrated overlap just for that purpose, but it wasn't done formally. While HR may do something, often it is pro forma, designed to "finish off" an assignment (left all of the files? Have any suggestions for us? Did you sign your forms...?) And of course in most instances once that person moves on there are few institutional ways to "bring them back" or to lower the opportunity costs inherent in answering a question from a successor. (Tony Pryor, about USAid)
  • A friend of mine when he left his company was not expected to leave behind any notes for his successor but as a matter of support for his successor, he decided to write a sort of 'shadow handover report' where he cut the descriptive task-based handover note out and instead focused on real deal / not-so-politically correct information about the status of various projects, what you could/should ask (and crucially NOT) to various people he had to deal with, how to get certain jobs done in practice (not on paper according to the procedure). I really liked that because that's the kind of information that really helps you get to speed quickly enough when you start a new job. (Ewen Le Borgne, about a public sector agency in Lille, France)
  • For me, when I moved from IRC to ILRI, the highlights (in the sense of the most significant) were a real discussion about what worked and not at the organization with the HR manager - not just the functional list of 'have you cleared your desk'-type items - and a wonderful opportunity I was given to give feedback on my experience during one of IRC's organisational learning weeks. My wonderful ex-colleagues organised a sort of farewell do with lots of really nice testimonies but I also took the opportunity to reflect on almost 10 years in the organisation and could really give back some crucial insights (for me) about what I saw as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (not mentioned in a scholar SWOT format, mind you) for IRC. Perhaps it didn't really help anyone about my function / functions in various projects, but I do hope it helped to think about a number of issues that seemed to matter. For my successors, I also left notes about my tasks and what needed to be done in various projects and contacts and passed on my knowledge of the 'intellectual-emotional' state of affairs with various partners on various projects, so something along the lines of trust-giving indeed. But this was my own initiative - though of course I was generally encouraged to leave some handover notes. (Ewen Le Borgne, about IRC)
  • When I arrived, the person I was supposed to replace/support had been out for almost a year and funny enough nobody briefed me. At the beginning I sat (very lonely) in my office and wondered how I could start. I started to talk to colleagues but got only indirect information and certainly not the clear picture Ewen described. One tool that, at this time, could have really helped me is 'process maps' (not sure if that's the generic term) to understand the flow of tasks & interactions. I have designed such maps in my current position to explicit the steps, how it flows, the interaction with internal/external stakeholders and I guess even if I'm not able to share all the background/details, that would be a good way to start for the person who would take over even if that seems simplistic compared to the ideal situation that Ewen mentioned. (Sarah Bel, about ILO).
  • I remember when we were talking to one of the senior figures in Asian banking he said he'd learned more from a breakfast with his boss who was leaving than from all the memos and briefings combined. Why? Because the stories he told that day brought to life the real meaning of what they were doing. Very often we use narrative techniques to help organisations present the stories of the organisation (how it works/big events/its future) as seen through the lens' of different people/stakeholders. (Paul Corney about a client organisation)
  • In each of the assignments we've undertaken with development banks (and indeed on a mission to Sudan with WHO in 2010) we've used a timeline as a way of getting people in an organisation to tell us what it is they are really interested in learning about. That provided the basis on which we then reviewed with interviewees and working groups those events using a narrative grid. We capture those grids and the stories that come out which then become more illuminating examples of the organisation at work the roles in it. (Paul Corney about Sparknow work on learning incidents, which could be applied to exit interviews).
  • One can invite the leaver or the newcomer to an internal knowledge seminar. The leaver can share his/hers observations on the subject, strategic forecast and key messages for the successor to factor in. The internal seminar can be recorded for future usage as well. It is however realized that not all staff who leave have something valuable to share, but some do. In the talks we try to ensure that no ruling beyond the grave is messaged. Newcomers can share their past experiences and their views on future developments related to our work programme or his/hers topic. It's my view that talking and engaging in a life audience is better than documenting! (Dan Boom about ICIMOD)
  • The International AIDS Alliance asked the colleagues of the leaving staff member people what they would want to know from that person, and then did a recorded semi-structured interview with that person (voice recording) where they could talk generally about their experiences. This was then left for the successor, the team, and the successor's successor. From that start I think they've now developed a set list of questions that they use. These questions are designed to encourage people to talk about different things than are normally covered in formal handovers - giving outgoing staff a chance to reflect on their experience, and pass on their learning and advice to people who will be taking on similar roles in the future (this may include some of the 'below the line' knowledge mentioned by Paul). The interviews are recorded and then shared in their 'raw' form with the successor and others in the team as relevant. We're also thinking of doing a short checklist of things that may seem obvious for handovers - things like contact lists and so on - which are so useful but easily forgotten.(Liz Wiltshire and Megan Gaventa, about the International AIDS Alliance).
  • In our organization, handover note (or end-of-assignment report) is not compulsory. Two years ago, we tried to make it more “recommended” practices within the organization but it ended up not working well. Basically, we lacked with a “top-down” approach and the institutional buy-in (especially among senior managers) on this. Without “ “enforcement” or top level pressure on staff who were leaving to comply” it is very difficult to make this as a usual and useful practice within the organization. We however, did an inventory assessment of different tools and format that are used (on ad-hoc basis) by different offices and sections to capture tacit knowledge at the end of the assignment. You can find the attached document- I have modified this document for external sharing purpose (all links were only available for internal staff so I removed them). Definitions are not generalizable, but this is how it was defined by different offices in our organization who tried to use them. Hope this is somehow helpful for you to think about what are the best tools in your context and how we may be able to adapt some of these tools for your organization. (Rinko Kinoshita, about UNICEF)
  • For every position I've ever left, in addition to leaving a handbook for how the job works, I've made myself available to my replacement by email, Skype, phone, whatever, for a long period of time so that if they have any questions at all about how to do things, or why I did things a certain way, or who they should go to for what, or things they should avoid, or challenges they are facing, they can reach out to me. Of course they're not going to want to do things the same way I did always, but it's nice to hear about how things got set up the way they did, and they've told me that it's comforting to have a sympathetic (and transparent) ear. Usually a person only needs a few months to get their sea-legs, so this has never been much of a burden on me. And I can certainly say that I wish my own predecessors had done the same for me. (Jennifer Nelson about CIFAD)
  • We were preparing for the retirement of our Financial Controller who'd been with us since formation in 1997. We did an extensive couple of months of handover to the new Accountants (who were taking on a wider remit that included the Financial Control function) that included parallel running on a 'three strikes and out'. He did it they watched; they did it he watched; they did it we checked. However one of the big things was to honour his commitment (and in so doing to open up the fabric and culture of Sparknow) by asking a number of people (including 'alumni') to think of an object that best described him and then tell a story about him to illustrate why. Even in that process we were able to unlock some little nuggets about process nuances we might have missed had we conducted an exit interview alone. (Paul Corney about Sparknow).


Related FAQs

Further Information

Mentioned in the thread, though only indirectly related:


Original Author and Subsequent Contributors of this FAQ

  • Original author: Juliana Caicedo
  • Brad Hinton;
  • Brandon Szabo;
  • Charles Dhewa;
  • Daan Boom;
  • Eva Schiffer;
  • Ewen Le Borgne;
  • Jaap Pels;
  • Jasmin Suministrado;
  • Jennifer Nelson;
  • Josef Hofer-Alfeis;
  • Lizzie Wiltshire;
  • M Jahangir
  • Mark Hammersley;
  • Megan Gaventa;
  • Paul Corney;
  • Philippe Hermant;
  • Ram Babu Nepal;
  • Rinko Kinoshita;
  • Sarah Bel;
  • Satish Nagaraji;
  • Tony Pryor;
  • Waled Mahmud


Dates of First Creation and Further Revisions

1 February 2012 (Ewen Le Borgne)


FAQ KM4Dev Source Materials

[Raw text of email discussions on which the FAQ is based]

Original posting: Dear Colleagues, I hope this message finds you well. Today, I?m writing to seek you advice on how to best conduct job handovers and ensure that knowledge, both explicit and implicit, is transferred in the most effective manner. Some of the questions that I am pondering today is whether we should have a standard procedure in place or whether it is better to leave it to the people involved to decide how to do the handover, provided they actually do it. What are your thoughts on this? If you favour an established procedure and you have one to share, I would be grateful to receive a copy of it (so far, I have only found 2003 BMZ internal memo and guiding questions for job handover). Also, we are wondering if we need a different approach for handovers between people going in and out of the field, who, often times, do not coincide in the same place, at the same time. This situation, as well as the cases where a post is vacant for a while, prevents the face-to-face handover during which individuals are willing to share much of the tacit knowledge that they would be hesitant to put in writing. People could certainly use videconference, telephone or skype for a virtual meeting, but in any case I'm curious to hear how your organizations deal with this situation. Any thoughts and ideas will be greatly appreciated. Regards, Juliana Caicedo


Dear Colleagues, Actually every organization has developed some rules and regulation for accepting resignation letter of a person who intent to take resign from his/her position. Common practice is, the person will be handed over his/her responsibility to his/her line manager/supervisor mean. In the real case, handing over the responsibility to the newly appointed person for the same position is not happen though would the best solution. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the resigned person to properly inform everything to his/her line manager/supervisor. Moreover, the person should informed to his/her clients and professionally related organizations about his/her leaving on the position and also mentioning the name to whom these people or organization would contact relating to his/her responsibilities. With best regards, Waled Mahmud Executive Director Knowledge Discovery


Dear All, Interesting question. Perhaps the Snowdens' leaders framework for decision makers / Cynefin dimensions help out here: - simple work: make it explicit (it is already probably; people are sort of replacable) - complicated work: you probably were not working on your own so off-load your expertiese to the team (should be done already) - complex: leave some indicators / think hooks behind. The new staff has to find a new (path dependant) way anyway - chaos: just give your new business card and have (paid ?) intervision / a conversation later on with your successor(s). In any case keep the communication channels open..... Cheers, Jaap


Hi Juliana, Great question. I have seen way too many evaluation reports that point to lack of continuity between managers as one of the major causes of program quality issues. Often the finger of blame is pointed at HR but there is also much that KM colleagues can do to help mitigate the negative consequences of short term / fixed term staff assignments. To address your specific question, yes there are good practice guidelines. It is also helpful to step back and take a systems perspective. When a system is broken, it is likely that no one person (or department) can unilaterally fix it. Both the outgoing post holder and the incoming post holder must participate in the handover, their manager and peers must support it, and the overall organisation should try to facilitate and incentivise a smooth and effective transition. People in Aid is a good place to start (see www.peopleinaid.org). They have a comprehensive guide on “Induction, Briefings and Handovers” which can be purchased via their website but appears to be available free from other sources: http://www.allindiary.org/pool/resources/people-in-aid-hr-handover-checklist.pdf http://www.allindiary.org/pool/resources/people-in-aid-induction-briefing-handover-guidelines.pdf The Aid Workers Network compiled some guidance for the person who is leaving post and wants to assure effective handover http://aidworkers.net/?q=node/355 The “Managing People in Emergencies” web site includes much helpful advice and applies to anyone working in a resource constrained environment (not just humanitarian) http://www.peopleinaid.net/Wikis/MPE/Home The issues caused by lack of continuity are often attributed to staff turnover, and that whole issue (including effective handover) was addressed in a paper by ODI that I co-authored: http://www.odihpn.org/hpn-resources/hpn-network-papers/understanding-and-addressing-staff-turnover-in-humanitarian-agencies There are also many useful resources on general HR web sites such as www.shrm.org and www.cipd.co.uk/ Finally, one of the complications with this topic is very considerable differences in terminology and culture between organisations/organizations – so do persevere, it does take effort to make progress but I believe the rewards are worth it. - Mark.


Hi Juliana, After having facilitated a lot of „Leaving Expert Debriefings“ I have written the attached paper in the Journal of Knowledge Management about my approach and the lessons learned. I hope you can reuse some of these experiences. Best Regards Josef (Hofer-Alfeis)


This is always a tricky question, and I guess how you do handover depends on the nature of the work. It's more difficult when people work in a "team", which I think is now normally the case nowadays. And especially difficult when the team does not have the processes in place for knowledge and info sharing. And I say this because oftentimes, when a person leaves, work becomes difficult not just for the boss or the one taking over, but for everyone who somehow interface, rely, or provide needed inputs to this person. Of course, this problem can be minimized if processes and systems have been documented and communication/updates are done frequently, so organizational knowledge does not reside just with a single person. So when a person leaves, handover is easier, and a simple excel sheet of pending tasks and assignments based on his/her individual workplan would do the work. It's also good to make sure that "expert" knowledge does not reside in just one person, so when that person leaves, that knowledge does not get lost or very costly to recover. That's just one piece of this handover puzzle. Jasmin Suministrado Knowledge Officer Microinsurance Innovation Facility International Labour Office


Wow, After Mark's humbling overview, there's little one can add. So I'll keep it short: - When Jaap Pels and I did (on our own volition) an exit interview with one of our very experienced IRC colleagues as she departed, she told us: forget about a semi-structured questionnaire or anything, just ask: What has been good about your experience here, and what you would do differently. Simple is beautiful. - Another idea - more difficult to implement - is to indeed organise the hand over between the departing staff and incoming staff, to help the latter grow into the job and the former progressively share insights and experience about their (future-ex) job; - And let's recognise that whatever we do, whenever someone leaves, they take a lot of their network and tacit knowledge with them, and that's unavoidable. We can reduce the loss but loss there will be. The beauty though is: with a loss/gap comes another opportunity... Cheers, Enjoying the conversation! Ewen


I wish to share my views on this important matter. I conducted the evaluation of institutional memory and knowledge transfer in 2005/2006. Senior managers and selected staff members interviewed during the course of evaluation shared their view that there is significant loss of institutional memory and knowledge due to lack of standard template for handover and administrative instruction in place that makes it mandatory. As a result tow recommendations were made to the management. (a) Develop a standard template for handover with the flexibility to expand it to meet specific information need of particular division. (b) Introduce exit interview before departure with supervisor or other staff member designated by supervisor. Implementation of these recommendations have made significant contribution in protecting institutional knowledge from loss although there are rooms for improvement. Handover note has to be prepared by all staff member who served more than a year and needs to be updated annually. Supervisors are required to ensure that handover note is updated by staff member during performance review at the end of the year. I hope this helps to some extent. Best regards, Ram Babu Nepal


Hi Juliana, As there are no attachments possible with this mailing list I have posted my paper on „Leaving Expert Debriefings” here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9486481/3%20LeavingExpertDebriefing%20JHA%20JKM2008-04.pdf I hope you can reuse some of these approaches and experiences. Best Regards Josef


Hi All, It might be very insightfull if - after we have all read about forms and procedures and protocols etc - to hear some real-life stories. I invite anyone who has changed job the last 5 years to tell the story 'highlight of my handover?'. Best, Jaap


Hi, We have many changes like that hapenning regularly in our computerized company for any reasons. What we would usually organize is a minimum one month transition, maybe more for some complex cases. During this transition we would bring-up some phases for progressive take-over, like any project. Week 1 is a scope definition, before entering into details in week 2. Only theory, nothing practical at first. Then week 3 is where the newcomer will act under the control of the leaving person (double handed flight). Week 4 is when the not-so-much-already-newcomer is acting autonomously with the intervention only-in-case-of-extreme-fire of the leaving person. We had an experience like that 4 years ago with a team in Morocco and 4 brazilians to take over the job. The discussions were very opened, everybody was willing to understand or to share anything. Only when it came to practice did we have to explain the transition model which came by naturally: "I explained how to drive my car. Now, go, and drive it !"Pressure came by at two moments: during some complex urgent actions, when you can distinguish experienced people from newcomer of course. And when we had to be sure that everything was handed over: you never can be 100% sure. So we had some repeating questions, or people getting tired. But at least with the 2 weeks of practice, you have a good guess of what would be 80% of the work. All of this was documented, signed and stored in a document system. One important point was to agree on the terms of transition: no re-organization was to happen before a certain amount of time to avoid any disruption. I mean by this, that it's important to picture what is the goal of this transition and knowledge transfer. Even if it can be heartbreaking, depressing or stressing sometime, with a goal in mind, and like for any other project, you have more chances to do a smooth hand over. Oh, of course, don't forget to ask for the mobile phone number of the leaving person ! Best regards, Philippe Hermant


Hello again! Thank you so much for the many and useful responses to my question. You guys are amazing! no wonder why I always bring up KM4Dev as an example of a dynamic and well-functioning network when I want to sell the benefits of networks to our young CoP. I find this discussion quite stimulating. Without having read in detail all the materials shared by you (which are waiting on my desk), I see two different approaches to transferring knowledge when people move on. On one side, we have the structured approach that promotes the use of set questions, checklists, templates; on the other side, I hear ?keep it simple?. It?s interesting to note that both positions reflect what I?ve heard from staff when I ask them what they would like. Some people want templates and a structured guide, while others say with dismay ?please, not another template to fill!?. The ?overlap? approach between incoming and outgoing staff for a number of days is, for sure, the ideal scenario, but I don?t see that happening very often ?at least not around me. Finally, some of you have wisely pointed out that, regardless of the approach, we need to accept the fact that people will share only as much or as little as they want to share, and they will always take with them a lot of tacit knowledge, that?s just the way it is. I?d love to hear more about your own handover experiences, as suggested by Jaap. On my end, I can say that 80% of the time the amount of information I receive from my predecessor has been driven by my own requests/questions/demands, etc rather than by the person herself (usually the outgoing person just wants to move onto new challenges, so preparing handover notes or meetings is not on top of their list). Fortunately, most of the time I have had the opportunity of spending at least a couple of hours with my predecessor but I know it?s not the case for many people who come into a job that has been vacant for a while and need to rely on outdated notes, if any were prepared. As it has become the costume around here, I will summarize the input received to my question once I feel that people have had enough time to contribute and the discussion has moved onto something else. Warm regards, Juliana


Interesting discussion here, in many respects truly critical to learning. In all of the years I worked at USAID, no one asked me to let them know what my successor needed to know. Several successors reached out informally, and one orchestrated overlap just for that purpose, but it wasn't done formally. While HR may do something, often it is pro forma, designed to "finish off" an assignment (left all of the files? Have any suggestions for us? Did you sign your forms...?) And of course in most instances once that person moves on there are few institutional ways to "bring them back" or to lower the opportunity costs inherent in answering a question from a successor. While I was out of AID for a decade, one of the things I did was to train up USAID staff cycling through Afghanistan, and I do mean cycling. Usually such tours were of a year's duration. Even short term interventions are longer than a year from start to finish, while most anything worth doing has a life cycle of many years/decades. Transferring knowledge from one "generation" to the next became a bit of an obsession, but I don't think we ever figured out the "best" way to do it. Certainly least effective was simply to hand over project documents and contact info. Useful I guess, but only as a starting point; in most instances MOST formal project documentation really tells you little about why we really were doing something, how it really went, what would really affect success, and what the next person should do to kick the activity further down the road (so to speak). More useful was to pass along detailed interviews of the predecessor talking about what the next person needed to know, along with that person's contact info, plus info from THAT person's predecessor. We think of a program's life cycle, or of a person's life cycle in an organization (ie a career), but not a functional life cycle - the role of senior health officer, or Ambassador, or extension worker, or for that matter of Minister, or village leader, or member of parliament. In many instances, while the FUNCTION may be constant through the life of a program,. and the life of the problem it was addressing may be constant, people do tend to come and go. One final point I learned from a remarkable person while I was involved with the Afghanistan training; for the life of me I can't remember his name (so much for memory...!) but he's about 82 now, and was in Vietnam early in the 1960s, worked on a USAID rural development/extension program. He visited Afghanistan a few years ago, remarkably, and had some incredibly sage things to say, about lessons learned, not learned, lost. One particular thing he said stuck with me, and is I think as relevant today, for ANYONE involved with this thread, as it was in his context. He decried the present focus on handover notes, since he felt it focused on the wrong relationship, between the outgoing external actor and his/her replacement. Instead, FAR more critical to success was to hand over *trust*- trust of the person in the country, be it a farmer, or a minister, or a shop clerk - in the external agent. Otherwise, to the person in Kabul, or Lilongwe, or...., the next person in is just another external face, who may or may not care, or may or may not focus on their interests, and problems. Like showing up at the immigration bureau and always getting a different clerk. even if each new clerk can read up in your file what the last clerk addressed, and what issues remained, the human bond is lost. What this meant then was that in his case "handover" meant handing over his replacement to his counterpart, and to the people he was involved with, and to having them focus on the longer term purpose and intent of it all. Tony Pryor


On the topic of job handoff and the institutional change Tony mentions, several months ago the Society for International Development (SID-Washington) Knowledge Management workgroup hosted an event with Steve Trautman addressing his mentorship approach to knowledge transfer. Steve described a number of ways to identify where there are high-risk areas in expertise/roles/responsibilities that are susceptible to turnover, and practical steps to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to new staff. You can view a recording of the presentation here: http://irgltd.adobeconnect.com/p4kid5gwcij/ (and can read more on the presenter at http://stevetrautman.com/). Best, Brandon Szabo Knowledge Management Specialist International Resources Group (IRG), an L-3 company


What a brilliant thread indeed! Thank you Tony for sharing your views and that story about handing over trust (or rather emphasizing where trust should go) as opposed to handing over contacts. Also very much like the idea of thinking about the function in a given initiative (rather than at the office) to help the next person do their job better. A friend of mine when he left his company was not expected to leave behind any notes for his successor but as a matter of support for his successor, he decided to write a sort of 'shadow handover report' where he cut the descriptive task-based handover note out and instead focused on real deal / not-so-politically correct information about the status of various projects, what you could/should ask (and crucially NOT) to various people he had to deal with, how to get certain jobs done in practice (not on paper according to the procedure). I really liked that because that's the kind of information that really helps you get to speed quickly enough when you start a new job. And since Jaap asked what was the highlight of moving jobs. For me, when I moved from IRC to ILRI, the highlights (in the sense of the most significant) were a real discussion about what worked and not at the organization with the HR manager - not just the functional list of 'have you cleared your desk'-type items - and a wonderful opportunity I was given to give feedback on my experience during one of IRC's organisational learning weeks. My wonderful ex-colleagues organised a sort of farewell do with lots of really nice testimonies but I also took the opportunity to reflect on almost 10 years in the organisation and could really give back some crucial insights (for me) about what I saw as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (not mentioned in a scholar SWOT format, mind you) for IRC. Perhaps it didn't really help anyone about my function / functions in various projects, but I do hope it helped to think about a number of issues that seemed to matter. For my successors, I also left notes about my tasks and what needed to be done in various projects and contacts and passed on my knowledge of the 'intellectual-emotional' state of affairs with various partners on various projects, so something along the lines of trust-giving indeed. But this was my own initiative - though of course I was generally encouraged to leave some handover notes. Ewen (Le Borgne)


Ewan, I agree, but I think we have only looked at one side of the coin. There is just as important a value in asking a NEW employee about their previous work experiences and previous organisational contexts. The idea is to see if these experiences/practices/ways of doing things might be useful for the new employer. Was there something in a previous workplace that was done well that could be introduced into the new organisational context? In other words, there may be some insights that a new employee can bring to the job and/or the organisation based on previous workplace experiences. Do new employees have something to offer to a new organisation based on previous workplace experiences and observations (other than the skills they were hired for) - what do you think? regards, Brad (Hinton) AusAID Canberra, Australia


Hi Everybody, Just a testimony from my last job! When I arrived, the person I was supposed to replace/support had been out for almost a year and funny enough nobody briefed me. At the beginning I sat (very lonely) in my office and wondered how I could start. I started to talk to colleagues but got only indirect information and certainly not the clear picture Ewen described. One tool that, at this time, could have really helped me is 'process maps' (not sure if that's the generic term) to understand the flow of tasks & interactions. I have designed such maps in my current position to explicit the steps, how it flows, the interaction with internal/external stakeholders and I guess even if I'm not able to share all the background/details, that would be a good way to start for the person who would take over even if that seems simplistic compared to the ideal situation that Ewen mentioned. Sarah (Bel) ILO


On Ewen and Brad and Tony, Ewen, indeed you put an effort to hand over. And it was not just 'one go'. That is another issue: people do not just leave overnight so there is some overlap-time; it is not 'replacing a soccer player'. A while later now I notice the handed-over-issues have been picked up and embedded ..... to be continued since you have not been replaced (whenever that would have been possible :-).... ... jumping to Brad ... Indeed a new colleague brings along a new history, new experience etc etc A nice source for new learning / cross fertilization. Hopefully the new person is indeed not 'more of the same' although organizations tend to suffer from autopoiesis; hiring a 'self image' sort of staff where an odd one out might be more of a push for progress / change. Organizations need courage not to hire the average.... a colleague leaving is an opportunity to learn. .... jumping to Tony ... Good point! Not only the 'work' is handed over, but also the relations and there new staff should be smoothly embedded. So again, content and context :-) Best, Jaap


I watched askance as so many wonderful ideas and experiences have been shared here. If I may please let me add my own 'two pennyworth' from some of our experiences working with clients across a number of continents. I remember when we were talking to one of the senior figures in Asian banking he said he'd learned more from a breakfast with his boss who was leaving than from all the memos and briefings combined. Why? Because the stories he told that day brought to life the real meaning of what they were doing. Very often we use narrative techniques to help organisations present the stories of the organisation (how it works/big events/its future) as seen through the lens' of different people/stakeholders. We look at the roles from an event or decision viewpoint which is why the idea of mapping as Sarah suggests is so powerful. We typically use a narrative grid (and though I cant' attach the document I can show the link to a blog I wrote on it a few years back http://stories-and-organizations.sparknow.net/post/1413478680) as we've found people respond much better to talking about incidents and processes than this abstract thing called knowledge. In each of the assignments we've undertaken with development banks (and indeed on a mission to Sudan with WHO in 2010) we've used a timeline as a way of getting people in an organisation to tell us what it is they are really interested in learning about. That provided the basis on which we then reviewed with interviewees and working groups those events using a narrative grid. We capture those grids and the stories that come out which then become more illuminating examples of the organisation at work the roles in it. The same technique can be applied in exit interviews (and has been) as a way of finding out what really happens in the informal activities we call 'below the line' (the way we do things around here) as opposed to the more formal processes 'above the line' as often written in procedures manuals. Very often the exit interview focuses on the formal and misses out the informal because there is no mechanism to get at it. Paul J Corney l Managing Partner Sparknow


In addition: Sometimes real meaning in a new job can come from figuring out things on your own. What is handed over to you may include certain habits and routines which prevent an organisation from changing for the better. From experience: Its better for you to discover the rotten part of a new organisation than have someone immerse you into an organisation's culture before you have started being part of it. Leaders tend to have respect for new people than those they have been working with for a long time. In one of the organisations I joined there was a culture of bootlicking the leader and when, as a new member, I ignored this practice, the leader praised me for it and that was the end of such a retrogressive practice. Time for introducing new ideas is right at the beginning. Asking many questions can be more important than waiting for someone to hand over anything to you. Regards, Charles Dhewa www.knowledgetransafrica.com


With regard to job handover we follow at ICIMOD a very simple recipe and invite the leaver or the newcomer to an internal knowledge seminar. The leaver can share his/hers observations on the subject, strategic forecast and key messages for the successor to factor in. The internal seminar can be recorded for future usage as well. It is however realized that not all staff who leave have something valuable to share, but some do. In the talks we try to ensure that no ruling beyond the grave is messaged. Newcomers can share their past experiences and their views on future developments related to our workprogamme or his/hers topic. Its my view that talking and engaging in a life audience is better than documenting! Daan Boom ICIMOD


Hi everyone, Thanks for a great discussion - we work through volunteers, and so this is really an issue for us as volunteers leave at the end of their placements, after one or two years. We're still trying to work through this problem, so I don't have anything to directly share from our experiences, but in looking around for solutions I came across the idea of recorded exit interviews. The International AIDS Alliance asked the colleagues of the leaving staff member people what they would want to know from that person, and then did a recorded semi-structured interview with that person (voice recording) where they could talk generally about their experiences. This was then left for the successor, the team, and the successor's successor. From that start I think they've now developed a set list of questions that they use. This sounds like a great idea, as I think that people are likely to talk about different things, and in a different way (about relationships etc, rather than just processes and procedures), and listening to an interview could be more engaging than reading handover notes. But I think that it could be much harder in a large organisation as it could take up quite a lot of staff time. I'm hoping that we're going to give it a go! Best, Lizzie (Wiltshire)


Hi all Thanks all for the interesting discussions, and thanks for Lizzie for sharing information on our knowledge sharing exit interviews here at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (you beat me to it!). I've attached the questions we use for the interviews, which are based on a template shared with one of my predecessors (perhaps even by someone on this list!). As Lizzie says, they are designed to encourage people to talk about different things than are normally covered in formal handovers - giving outgoing staff a chance to reflect on their experience, and pass on their learning and advice to people who will be taking on similar roles in the future (this may include some of the 'below the line' knowledge mentioned by Paul). The interviews are recorded and then shared in their 'raw' form with the successor and others in the team as relevant. We're also thinking of doing a short checklist of things that may seem obvious for handovers - things like contact lists and so on - which are so useful but easily forgotten. Best Megan Gaventa Programme Support Officer: Knowledge Sharing International HIV/AIDS Alliance


Hi all, Really inspiring thread indeed and thanks for sharing your perspectives and experiences. As I am looking for a job at the moment I will be in the situation of taking over from someone soon (hopefully :)) so this is really helpful. One thing that I plan to do once I know where I am going is to draw an influence network map (Net-Map, http://netmap.wordpress.com) with the person who leaves the job - or, if that person is not available any longer, with my new colleagues. Those who know me might not be surprised, because I Net-Map everything, but let me tell you what I am planning to do and why I think that will help me jump into my new role better prepared. I will sit down with my pre-decessor/colleagues and ask: Who are all the people/groups/organizations that will influence that whether I will do a great job here - positive and negative influence? We will write all of these on post-its and distribute them on a flip-chart paper. How are these people linked to each other? What kinds of links matter depends a bit on the kind of job, but most likely I will include "formal hierarchy", "money flows", "friendship, positive informal connections", "conflict, competition, negative informal connections" or something similar. Each link gets a different color and I will draw arrows between the different cards to indicate the connections. What are their goals/motivations with regards to my job? I will write brief notes next to each actor to document where they are coming from, why they will do what they do etc. How strongly will they be able to influence my success? Influence towers of checkers pieces next to each actor will indicate their influence on my work. Why do I think this will be helpful? Well, this thread talks a lot about the importance of networks, trust, non-technical knowledge, political insights etc. and I have found that mapping these things out can be really helpful for getting an in-depth and detailed discussion going. Often the person who has all this knowledge (the pre-decessor or colleague) would be willing to share but just doesn't know how. Also, once everything is on the table, it is much easier to see where the major opportunities and bottlenecks are and that is the point where I would start discussing with my colleagues: If these are the major issues, what can I do to deal with them? If these are the major influencers, what is the best way of getting introduced to them (can you help?)? If these are the major trouble spots, what can I do or avoid to stay out of this trouble or deal with it? Cheers Eva (Schiffer)


Thanks very much for everyone- I found this thread very helpful and interesting. In our organization, handover note (or end-of-assignment report) is not compulsory. Two years ago, we tried to make it more “recommended” practices within the organization but it ended up not working well. My old colleague Ian wrote about the failed experience on his blog “KM on a dollar a day” http://kmonadollaraday.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/km-triple-fail-no-faire/ Basically, we lacked with a “top-down” approach and the institutional buy-in (especially among senior managers) on this. Without “ “enforcement” or top level pressure on staff who were leaving to comply” it is very difficult to make this as a usual and useful practice within the organization. We however, did an inventory assessment of different tools and format that are used (on ad-hoc basis) by different offices and sections to capture tacit knowledge at the end of the assignment. You can find the attached document- I have modified this document for external sharing purpose (all links were only available for internal staff so I removed them). Definitions are not generalizable, but this is how it was defined by different offices in our organization who tried to use them. Hope this is somehow helpful for you to think about what are the best tools in your context and how we may be able to adapt some of these tools for your organization. I am still not sure how we could make this system/mechanism of handover better work in a huge organization like us. But as much as I emphasize “top-down” approach, it is also an issue of accountability for each staff member. Right now I am trying to put together a handover note for my position which was abolished recently. I do not need to do this because no one is taking over my job, but I am thinking about doing a brief note (not heavy one) with critical views - how my job has evolved over the past two years and how we could have done differently. So all the information on this thread shared by different people are helpful. Thank you so much. Best, Rinko (Kinoshita)


Dear colleagues, Good to read through the interesting discussion. Thanks to all. My point is that the incoming member understanding their roles and responsibilities, seek related information from the outgoing member. This is not a complete solution, but this would atleast help in covering the immediate gap. Best regard, S'N (Satish Nagaraji)


Btw, there was an earlier thread of this conversation on the list in 2007 - more specifically about the topic of exit interviews: http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Exit_Interviews Cheers, Ewen


Hi all, I'm not sure if this has been suggested by anyone yet in this discussion of good ways to handle handovers, but for every position I've ever left, in addition to leaving a handbook for how the job works, I've made myself available to my replacement by email, Skype, phone, whatever, for a long period of time so that if they have any questions at all about how to do things, or why I did things a certain way, or who they should go to for what, or things they should avoid, or challenges they are facing, they can reach out to me. Of course they're not going to want to do things the same way I did always, but it's nice to hear about how things got set up the way they did, and they've told me that it's comforting to have a sympathetic (and transparent) ear. Usually a person only needs a few months to get their sea-legs, so this has never been much of a burden on me. And I can certainly say that I wish my own predecessors had done the same for me. My two cents! Jennifer M. Nelson Program Coordinator Cornell International Institute of Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD)


Ewen, in rereading your post I was taken back a year to when we were preparing for the retirement of our Financial Controller who'd been with us since formation in 1997. We did an extensive couple of months of handover to the new Accountants (who were taking on a wider remit that included the Financial Control function) that included parallel running on a 'three strikes and out'. He did it they watched; they did it he watched; they did it we checked. However one of the big things was to honour his commitment (and in so doing to open up the fabric and culture of Sparknow) by asking a number of people (including 'alumni') to think of an object that best described him and then tell a story about him to illustrate why. Even in that process we were able to unlock some little nuggets about process nuances we might have missed had we conducted an exit interview alone. Again I did write a small piece about it entitled 'transferring tacit knowledge: book of memories http://stories-and-organizations.sparknow.net/post/5304981674. Paul J Corney l Managing Partner Sparknow LLP


This example reminds me of an interesting method I read about called knowledge expert interview, used by companies like Rolls Royce and Michelin North America. Basically, it consists of a panel of experts interviewing a departing expert based on a set of predetermined questions. The interview is video or audio recorded, edited and tagged for later consultation. Given the resources and energy that such an approach requires, it is used for holders of critical knowledge (this differentiation creates additional wrinkles, but I won't get into that now). This and other interesting techniques are presented in the documents attached, which offer practical advice for the transfer of tacit knowledge and address the challenges of doing it in a multigenerational environment. Cheers, Juliana


yeah, that was a good thread too. One issue with exit interviews, if I remember, is that they are often done by the HR folk, not those who actually care about, or know about, the person's work. One suggestion I heard was to do a right seat ride with the person (as they say in the military) for awhile before they leave, NOT just during the sliding last few months when the mind is on the glories of the past and the joys of the future, often losing the grit of reality which probably matters the most. The Steve Trautman piece which Brandon mentioned was really interesting, btw; he is trying to help firms understand who knew what, who was expert, who was spread too thin, who would be a huge loss once they left, etc. What I loved about his approach was it was focused on the needs of the team, and of the enterprise, and not just focused on the individual leaving. Its emphasis is on ensuring the continued ability of the enterprise (project, or...) to carry out a mission which required the support of multiple skills and talents, and explicitly tries to grapple with the transfer of tacit knowledge and skills, in light of aging baby boomers, and an influx of gungho but green 20 somethings. The reality he picked up was that tacit k was hard to pass along simply because the holder often fundamentally couldn't really articulate what they knew, and to get a job done often required a range of people, with a range of skills, with no one person holding all of the cards at any given time. "Handover" was not just a question of replacing old person A with new person B but in ensuring the ensuing mix was still necessary and sufficient. Trautman works almost exclusively with private sector enterprises, many of them involved with producing some good or service. I don't think he has ever worked on development issues but Stacey and I have been trying for awhile now to figure out a way to fit his methodology into USAID. No success yet, but it's quite a radical shift, which I think frankly addresses many of the issues raised in this thread in ways which more traditional public sector and NGO HR-driven approaches seem to have difficulty doing. Will let you know if we can pull off a test. Tony


Dear All The basic concern at the start of discussion looked like a smooth flow of information and experience contributing to the project to the new comer. Let us not forget that a change in project leadership/ handling offers a great opportunity to project performance as well. A new leader will have a fresh look on the happenings and may be able to locate some weak ends that were being followed as matter of routine. Yet for all this , I may like to add that this objective of smooth transfer in a day or so of delivering charge may not be possible. While leading a project it is important to keep at lest one colleague totally informed about what is happening and more importantly why and how it is being done, it is always important to maintain a full transparency of the affairs. Later on when the leader has moved and may like to still contribute , it is not very difficult to stay in touch via emails and telephone. Transferring knowledge and experience is a very noble spirit and people who have it might have worked on multiple projects. To keep sharing our experience and knowledge about water sanitation and hygiene that we cherish I may like to add an example of remaining connected to old colleagues via http://groups.google.com/group/wash--pakistan , for everybody's information. Though strange but this is how I am doing it and shall very much appreciate, group's input. Thanks M Jahangir for a better tomorrow