Business Process Handoff Challenges

business process handoffImagine for a moment that you are part of a breathless crowd watching an Olympic relay race. It’s close but your national team – the home team – is in for a very good chance at gold. Tensions are high, the crowd are chanting … and then the baton drops.

That’s it. The entire stadium groans in unison as their dream of gold medals and glory shatter along with the bragging rights of the two klutzes who dropped the ball … or in this case the baton.

In business transferring the responsability of a particular task from one person to another is called a handoff. Doing it successfully may not win your team a gold medal but it is a key skill in maintaining the efficiency and success of any department. Unfortunately, handoffs can sometimes present challenges that would make even Olympic athletes break out in a cold sweat.

This week let’s take a brief look at handoff challenges and then next week, tune in for a special Christmas present from me to you – a Guide to Improving Handoffs in Business Processes and Worksheet. This is actually something that several people have written in and asked for, so you see, it is worth contacting me if you have any process related questions.

What is a Handoff?

We’ve already established that a handoff is that point in a process when responsibility passes from one person to another but beyond that – what actually is a handoff?

Well, it is part of a process. It does not stand alone. And if that process is repeatable (which it most likely is because if it were not it would be a project), then the handoff will happen repeatedly also, at the same point of the process.

It stands to reason then, that working out the kinks on the handover will pay dividends in efficiency.

When Good Handoffs Go Bad

There are some errors that are common to handoffs and not surprisingly, they tend to be specific to the roles played in the exchange. Sender errors commonly revolve around providing insufficient information. Receiver errors relate to a failure to request enough data or ask for clarification.

Both parties can be guilty of passing the buck when things go wrong and making assumptions on the other persons expectations or understanding of the outcome.

Improving Handoffs

Think back a moment to our relay team. If as much work  and practice had not gone into the run up to the pass as in the pass itself, then that baton was destined to hit the track no matter how on point the runners were on the day.

Prepare for perfect handoffs by standardizing them. Know the sequence of events that are necessary to ensure a successful transition and know which party is responsible for each of them. Next week’s Improving Handoffs Guide includes a worksheet that will help you work through and sequence the key components between sender and receiver.

Handoff Formality

In some cases a handoff is a relatively informal procedure. Generally, when it is occurring internally and between members of the same team it can be a less stringent procedure. However, when a handoff is necessary between departments or in situations where the baton has been dropped before, a more structured aproach is necessary. That is when you would want to use a handoff agreement work sheet, designed to cover the essential elements of a successful handoff arrangement.

After the Handoff

It is not likely that you will get a handoff agreement right the first time. Even if it seemed to go without a hitch, it may be that a little fine tuning can save on time or improve communication in subsequent exchanges. By including a plan for regular reviews in the handoff agreement you are acknowledging that there is room for improvement. Players are more likely to be invested in the process if they feel that their input is sought after and considered valuable.
So hopefully this brief overview has put you in the mood to give your handoffs a springclean in the New Year.  Check back next week for the free downloadable Guide to Improving Handoffs in Business Processes which will show you exactly how to do that.


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  1. 10 Process Improvement Questions Business Leaders Should Ask | The Fast Track - September 26, 2016

    […] by someone on your immediate team, or by another group. If it’s the latter, process consultant Ian James recommended a structured approach. His handoff agreement worksheet is designed to cover […]

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