Process Improvement Handoffs

Process Improvement Hand-offs

If you wanted to improve a process you might start mapping it out. It would probably look a bit like this. Now, there is nothing wrong with process maps, it’s just that they don’t tell the whole story. The irony is that the biggest opportunities for process improvement never show up on a process map.

This video is focuses on one of those opportunities. If you are trying to make improvements to your own processes, a good place to begin is with Hand-offs. A handoff occurs in a process when responsibility for the next activity passes from one person to another.

So, let’s zoom in on a part of a process. Here we have two activities, but let’s say that this is at the boundary of two people’s responsibilities. So, the output from the first activity will have to be passed to the person responsible for the second. In other words, we have a hand-off.

The best a process map can do, is show a swimlane between the two. But what’s really going on here? It’s not just that the responsibility for the next activity is being passed on. It’s also that we need the details that are specific to this particular instance of the process. If you like it is the process data.
So there is this additional burden of communication at a hand-off. We need to pass on information so that the next person can complete the task.

This is a crucial moment where things can and often do go wrong. If we don’t do a good job of passing the right information on, there will inevitably be errors and delays.

Now this is not much of a problem when the process has very little variation from instance to instance. In other words, if it is a cookie cutter process. Then the information is routine and the receiver already knows what to do.

Unfortunately, real world processes, when you get down to it, are rarely truly cookie cutter. And that means there are always some details that we need to pass on. Say we were asking the recipient to purchase a laptop for a new hire. We might need to pass on a budget for the laptop, maybe a brand or the date we need it.

The first sign that we have not done this accurately and comprehensively, will be a flurry of communication back and forth as the sender keeps asking for the details.

Most people are all too familiar with the phenomenon of finding themselves with insufficient information to complete a task. It can be very frustrating. At the very least, it causes delay. Worse, it means the output from the task results in an error. Like we go over budget on the laptop.

And the more variation in the process, the less cookie cutter it is, the more important and detailed the handoff needs to be.

And so here’s the opportunity for improving the process. What if we could agree upfront for a given process what information we should pass on at the point of the handover? That would allow the recipient to complete the task without delay and without getting it wrong. We call this a handoff agreement or a hand-off design.

They don’t have to be very formal or bureaucratic to be useful. And they are easy to set up. Often all it takes is a conversation or a simple form to establish one. And the investment of effort can pay-off time and again.

Once people know what information is required for a successful hand-off, they generally make the effort to provide it. If they don’t know, if they have never had that conversation, then they have no clue that they are putting the process at risk.

Now, looking at the swimlanes on a process map you would not see if you had a problem with a hand-off. But this is where real life processes are at their most vulnerable. It’s literally where things can fall between the cracks. Taking the time to communicate what is required goes a long way to minimizing the chances of that happening.

There are lots of other ways to improve processes. You can dig deeper into this subject by watching other process videos in this series. You can get them and also download an example of a handoff agreement on my website,

Thanks for watching!

I am Ian James,

The Process Consultant.

Related Post

15 Responses to Process Improvement Handoffs

  1. Oleg G. January 5, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Please, let me know where can I get an example of a handoff agreement?

    Thank you!

    • Ian James January 6, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      Hi Oleg,

      I will send you one. Thanks!

    • John Osborne April 17, 2014 at 7:49 am #

      Can I get a hand off agreement please

      • The Process Consultant April 17, 2014 at 9:04 am #

        Hi John,

        Yes.I have sent you the hand-off form in a spreadsheet and also a more detailed guide to explain the terms. It helps to have everyone use the same terms and understand why it is important. Hope it helps.

  2. Kate October 12, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Hi Ian,

    May I have a copy of you hand off agreement worksheet as well?

    Thank you

  3. Jacqueline Qu October 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi, Ian James. Could you please let me get an example of hand-off agreement?
    Thank you!

  4. Manuel Fajardo January 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    Hi Ian James. Could you please send me a sample of hand-off agreement?

  5. Jill Royston April 28, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    Could you please send me a hand-off agreement? Really appreciate how simply you describe the ideas and make it easy for people to see the hand-offs.

  6. Lisa Forte April 30, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    Hi Ian James, Could you please let me have access to an example of a hand-off agreement?

  7. Mara Robertson May 17, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Hi Ian James. Could you please send me a sample of hand-off agreement?

  8. Gina Mann September 17, 2015 at 9:53 pm #


    I was wondering if you would please send me a sample of a hand-off agreement. I think this could really help iron out some communication issues with my team.

    Thank you!

  9. Lotte October 14, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Ian,

    I would like to request for a sample of a handoff agreement.
    Will you send me one?


  10. Tom November 7, 2015 at 3:21 am #

    Can u please sent me the handoff agreement? P.s. I’m glad i was directed to your website. I was writing down everything you said on youtube…. nice to see you already have written thing down!!

  11. Tony February 20, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Hello Ian,
    This is interesting. Can you send me a sample of the handoff form and guide please?

    Thank you

  12. Marcia March 8, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    Hi Ian. Thanks for the vid. I disagree though that a process map can not tell you what outputs an activity/process (hand-offs even between processes) generates or inputs it takes. I think that depends on the notation used or what mapping tool but even without a tool or strict notation, this information can be captured. When using BPMN on visio, I create my own objects to represent this information or sometiimes even use a simple text box and pointer. I believe it’s important when eliciting information for process modelling, to also source this information and model it otherwise the process is not comprehensive.

Leave a Reply

Share This