A Dev Manager’s Guide to Smooth Transitions and Handoffs
As they say in the sports world, “instinctively knowing when to run forward, when to ease back, and when to let someone else take over…these are the marks of a great team and a great team player”. Here, in the tech world, we couldn’t agree more.
In most startups, each employee wears many hats. But as the company grows there comes a time for employees to hand over the keys to the kingdoms they’ve created and let someone else take the reins. Nobody wants to let go of the project they’ve poured their heart and soul into, even if they wholeheartedly trust the hands they’re about to place it in. After investing and growing your project from the ground up, parting ways is most often not in the original plans you had. However, as we all know, “the best-laid plans of mice and men…”.
Handoffs are a journey, and as with all journeys, you learn a lot along the way. What can you do to make sure that the process goes well? No matter where you’re headed next, you want to make sure that the transfer is not only easy, but productive. Here are a few ideas on what to look out for to ensure that it’s smooth-sailing from the get-go.
Sharing is Caring, Especially with Knowledge
One significant part of handing over the reins to your successor is handing over all of the knowledge that you’ve compiled during your term. There are a variety of ways in which you can do this, but we’ll focus on three, including their pros and cons.
- Interactive knowledge sharing. The transfer of knowledge from one person to another has many benefits, especially when done in an interactive manner. It promotes collaboration, helps others learn from your mistakes, facilitates faster and better decision making, stimulates innovation, and reduces the loss of know-how. However, knowledge sharing can often switch the team into a solely solutions-oriented mindset, instead of a progress-oriented mindset.
- Meetings and recordings. Meetings are some of the best ways to impart knowledge. They help to focus, it is easier to engage, and avoids anything getting lost in translation. Recordings of these meetings help to go back and review the information that was relayed, ensuring nothing critical falls by the wayside and can be reviewed whenever needed. However, time doesn’t always allow for such meetings, which can make implementing this difficult.
- Crystalizing information in written formats or diagrams. True knowledge is forever, right? By securing your wealth of knowledge into written formats or diagrams, you are able to transfer what you know to another person without the need for interaction. Yet, this can be difficult later on and become challenging to understand when it can lack context or the technology has moved on from what you wrote.
We don’t always have time to write things down, or to set a meeting just for transferring knowledge. Sometimes we don’t even have time to share a link to a document we’ve already written a year ago, and forgot it even exists. But if we don’t invest the extra time and effort, all of the knowledge we’ve gathered will be lost, and a lot of the hard work we’ve done will go to waste.
So be sure to mix and match, and start introducing the above tools into your team’s culture when the timing seems right. We promise it will pay off in the long run.
The Proper Tooling
In tech, there’s two things we love with all our hearts: great coffee and great tools. While the former is important at all times, of all days, the latter is a crucial part of a successful handover.
Providing your successor with the right tools is a necessity. It allows the person taking over to be self-sufficient from the get-go. There are a variety of tools out there that help with different aspects of the handover. Whether it’s having the proper introductions for people to consult with, their contact information, project history, or source code, they’re of key importance.
One such critical tool is one that provides them with the ability to understand things on their own. It aids in speeding up the process – no wasted time trying to decipher legacy code, for instance- minimizing the time it takes to learn the new software. It allows them critical insight into the software that they have just inherited and gives them the ability to comprehend what is going on, all of which are crucial to a successful handover.
Take Rookout for example. With a single click, your successor can get all the data they need to understand the software they’re working with, on their own, instantly. Gaining this level of comprehension without writing code, redeploying, or just plain waiting – gives them pretty much everything they need to succeed in their new role.
Productivity- the end goal
Simply put, transitions are a part of tech life. The question is not whether to move forward, but how to adapt as quickly as possible. While no simple feat, as a manager it is your job to enable smooth and time-saving methods to make these transitions as painless as possible. By doing so, you’ll be able to not only have a productive and easy handoff, but be able to maintain, and hopefully even grow, your dev team’s velocity and code quality.