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Building a Successful Transition Plan

It’s inevitable that at some point in your career as a leader that you will have one of your team members (or even yourself) leave a position or organization. With that individual (or you), there is a lot of knowledge that is likely not residual with anyone else on your team or even in your organization. This calls for a transition plan to be developed and executed before that knowledge walks out the door.

Most times, when someone leaves an organization it’s done on their terms (i.e. they’ve found another opportunity) which means that you’ll (in most cases) have that individual around for at least a couple of weeks to help transition their duties and knowledge to someone else. So what do you do?

Identify Key Responsibilities, Knowledge Areas and Outstanding Tasks

In order to successfully transition knowledge from one individual to another, you need to know what exactly it is that you need to transition. What are the key responsibilities that this individual owned? What are the knowledge areas where this individual has expertise that nobody else on the team has? Most importantly, what tasks are outstanding for this individual? The answers to these questions will form the scope of the transition areas that need to be focused on.

Identify Targets for Knowledge Transfer and Task Ownership

Once you’ve identified all the areas and items that this individual is key to, you need to determine where that knowledge will go. Aligning skill-sets is one way to target the right individuals. It’s a good practice to not select someone who is ill-equipped skill-wise to take over during a short transition window only because you want to ensure a good knowledge transfer. If the target individual is learning a new skill along with the transferred knowledge it may be too much and key elements may get lost during the transition.

Set Expectations and Follow Up

As with any plan, ensuring proper execution is key. Make transitioning a priority for the source and target individuals and make sure they have time in their schedules to make it happen. If transition and knowledge transfer is treated like an afterthought by leadership you can be sure it will be treated the same way by the individuals responsible for carrying out the plan. After the knowledge transfer has taken place, validate with the target individual that they feel a sense of comfort with the information they’ve received and what they are now responsible for.

A transition plan is only as good as its execution and results. By ensuring proper targeting of knowledge areas, skills, duties and tasks for the departing individual and supporting the transition process to someone new, you as a leader are ensuring a good level of continuity for your team and your project.

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