Communication Essential in Project Hand-Offs

The concept of hand-offs became popular in nursing literature and practice in the past decade.  The success of hand-offs rests solely in communication.  As teams operate in a lean staffing model, projects are inevitably going to be subjected to hand-offs.  Passing work off is not a reflection on anyone’s work, it’s simply a necessity of conducting good business.  During summer months when folks are taking time off to celebrate birthdays, children leaving the nest, and summer sun and fun, organization departments can see a peak in handing off projects.  No-one should sacrifice their time off by thinking that their project cannot be successfully handed off and tackled by one of their equally qualified peers.  A person’s ability to recharge and unplug is critical.  If teams want to be successful they have to trust that they contribute to the department’s success.  Three key phases of hand-offs are: 1) information exchange 2) transferring responsibility and demonstrating accountability 3) continuity of business.  Below are some suggestions to a successful hand-off.

  1. Provide a brief summary of the project background — where it started, where it needs to be, and where it is at the moment of the hand-off.
  2. Share the critical need-to-know information first.  Remember need-to-know is different than nice-to-know.
  3. Give a list of key contacts and their roles and responsibilities, as well as the tasks they are assigned.
  4. Tell the person you are dealing with (client contact, internal or external) who your project is being handed off to and when you will be back.

For the person covering the project:

  1. Make sure you copy your team member on all correspondence.
  2. Prior to their return, craft a bulleted summary of what transpired while you were covering, so they can get back up-to-speed quickly.
  3. Communicate to the client contact that your teammate is returning and what still needs to be taken care of and who is handling it.

In the end, communication is key to hand-offs and sharing pertinent information is essential.  Regardless of who is in the office or out, part of a successful team and organization, depends on the continuity of business processes and work flow.  Hand-offs prepare all persons involved in the project with a sense of ease that tasks will not fall through the cracks.

Blog post by WHCM Steering Committee Member Gail Winslow