Wrapping up at the end of an assignment

Again, the time has come for me to wrap up for an long term assignment. Currently it’s over two years to be gathered. In my age and with my background, i can be honest to say that this situation is nowadays quite familiar.

Do you recognize yourself from situations where you are about to wrap up, and have either nobody reach out to or everyone hunting you for as many reasons? Let’s go ahead and let me describe four models of personas and way to go, based from my experience.

Wrapping up the end of an assignment might be the most critical compared to any other activity during an assignment. Even more then meeting the expected deliverable criteria. Because, simply put, if deliverable was not met – it’s unlikely that a new trust built upon your delivery. On top of that, this is the phase where your activities might make the heaviest footprint. A confidence test of the relationship between the customer and the company you represent. But also as a person.

While every exit is unique in a number of ways, there is a pattern where some activities is shared from time to time. I try to share some experiences out from this. Describing it in models and anti patterns to try out.

Strictly speaking, a lack of quality in this phase can cost service and even health to people. Note to shelf: This primarily concern assignments and roles where one have ben a key resource in a particular way. For instance a broad (or specialized) resource over time. Projects driven with well defined deliverables with defined roles, organized budget and release dates often have this handover and transition thing leveraged within standard risk measurement.

I write often, because that would be a lie to say that it always like that.

Anti pattern: Spend all effort on one card

Once you gather the cards to end the assignment, loneliness might be present. All of a sudden, a manager approach you with an “You know what you need to do”-face while all the rest scream after a all kind of attention for something to get filed up. You are left to spend whole days or week to gather data, meetings and answer questions on loose threads. The kind of questions that all of a sudden appear, can be quite interesting.

Roughly I model the ending as a divided share between four areas. “the documenter“, the “the worrier“, “the care less” and finally “the vetger“.

While all of them have all rights to mitigate each of their risks, one of them might appear more convincing or even dominating to you. Eventually one is your manager or someone you look up to. I.e. established friendship. Ending up in focusing too much on just one of those, might direct you into this anti pattern.

Note: “Careless” have a negative tone, but the point is opposite. There is a number of fellows that just reply “no problem Jonas, we have all we need”. While this is a good sign, it’s sometime to light wind round. To feel sure, I used to face this situation for instance by ask for an activity that should be covered by that statement.

Anti pattern: Underestimate culture impact

Two views of this. One is how the role in the organisation do impact communication network. Beside that, the change or impact in team culture or spirit, once you leave.

For the former, relationships to other stakeholders. Often there is a lack of persistence of the communication network, when key roles disappear. See this sample model.

Seen above, some resources are obviously handed over. But other lost. A number of formal, informal or less related connections and relationships is usually forgotten or underestimated. Another challenge in the handover is the manageability for the new resource to establish and keep the connections. Often personal chemistry create informal relationships, which might not work the same on your successor.

Other times the connections are there, but due to prioritization or lack of demand to keep in touch for a long time, make them cold and maybe even non existent. Let say a developer had a very though time investigating network latency and therefore you established good relations to network operating architects or managers. A useful contact that you add to the stakeholder list, but maybe not critical to the application once the issue is sorted out.

On the latter view, your own impact on the spirit and culture. Might sounds unrelated to work. But it’s directly related to the footprint you leave. If the culture is such that some person(s) get used to your presence, chances are that the mood or emotions of at least one, is moved. Personally I see it as a tough thing to identify, I often being surprised who was really care, or not at all.

Anti pattern: Try to model the phase out

This anti pattern might sound like it contradict myself. However it’s a matter of what you try to model. It might be an tempting idea to model the “how to decom myself”-process. Similar threats and worries can be identified across, but the way they are impacted is different from time to time. An acceptable condition here would be a very high level, just to demonstrate how you are going to take care of it. More detailed and with dependencies added, is clearly an anti pattern. Increased risk to focus to much on a single point, loosing other aspects.

I can find myself make up a list of areas. Then i try to layer them out in a matrix. It might be a number of roles (or actors) and a number of concerns. Then I fill in in which way each role hits the given concern. After that, each cell in the matrix can get measured and followed up (in case all of this stuff is needed to ensure handover).

  • Does it need to be documented? How? Who is the receiver? Would it be 80/20 perfectness, or just some guiding titles?
  • If “high level”, is it really helpful? maybe this “high level” does not add anything at all? So I might just be less lazy and provide some more depth?
  • Do it need to repeat? Should the information be backed up and split into two. A more in depth to the most impacted and a more high level and broad, as supporting info to another related person?

The “reference list”

Assuming that there exist any handover material at all, one highly valuable is a high level document that cover areas, processes and stakeholders. And, briefly, areas that has ben initiated or engaged during the time. If enough time can be spent, also it’s valuable to document upfront changes and challenges with some “gut feeling”. Having SWOT in mind might add some value.

Even if it’s not directly related to the primary purpose of the project or system scope. As often are the case, this is ultimately simple as a Excel sheet with few simple tables stating contact and a reason.

Stakeholder lists is naturally short lived, but they do provide an valuable view about the blood stream of your work. A piece of organizational evolution can be tracked, once the gap is identified between now and the time where it was produced.

Wrap Up

In the end, it might be up to your professional acting of how to leverage and motivate the effort spent on each of those three areas, that will set how good you wrap everything up.