Magazine article New Zealand Management

Walkouts and Wikis

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Walkouts and Wikis

Article excerpt

This is the sort of email conversation that's usually followed by a cold empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. One minute everything's running smoothly, the team's fired up and productive, and the next you're facing the loss of a key staff member.

There's the usual flood of questions that race through your mind. What can we do to change his mind? How are we going to replace him? Is there anyone internally that could do the job? What are all the things we need to do before he leaves?

It's never easy replacing a key person. And it can be even harder when the person you have to replace has particularly specialised skills--as is often the case with IT staff.

It might sound obvious, but being proactive and planning for succession is by far the best way of ensuring the departure of key staff members causes minimum disruption to the business.

The first step is identifying those individuals in the organisation who are the biggest repositories of "organisational knowledge". Ideally, these people should have an "understudy"--someone who is identified as a possible replacement (even if it's only in a temporary capacity). An understudy needs to be involved in working day-today with the person they're supporting, so that they can provide continuity if that person leaves.

If that's not possible, the next best security measure is to ensure that when a key person leaves they don't take all their organisational knowledge with them. Make it a priority to document critical organisational knowledge so that incoming staff can get up-to-speed as painlessly as possible. This means ensuring that you have thoroughly documented key systems, processes and projects, and that this documentation is up-to-date.

As we all know--which is why it's seldom done--documenting systems, processes and procedures can be a painful process. But as organisations grow in size, it's an important part of ensuring the organisation continues to function effectively and efficiently. …

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