A practical post: how to approach task hand-over.

Say we are in a situation where you are moved to other responsibilities and need to hand over all you tasks. How can you do this pragmatically and efficiently?

First of all you need to accept that, whatever the time given, you will never be able to transfer all your knowledge. Trying to do this is equal to spoiling valuable time. Yours’ and your counterparts’. There is knowledge that you acquired in months that simply cannot be handed over in hours. If you’re comfortable with this, we can move on.

1. Make a rough assessment of the time you’ve got. How smaller the amount of time, how bigger the risk to miss a meaningful piece of information. Once you’ve got a fair feeling, communicate to your stakeholders (your PM, your business counterparts, your IT connections).  I usually take the rough estimate of 30h of project work = 1 h of hand over. 6 months in this respect would require 3 to 4 days hand-over. Does this sound fair to you?

Communicating to all stakeholders is important, because you want to let them evaluate the impact your move has for them and maybe make some special requests. If the PM is a bit reluctant, push him. You want to leave a clean situation behind you don’t you?

2. Once the notification is sent, prepare a table like this, fill it up and discuss it with your PM. Make sure you include all comments received after you sent your notification!

Task Status Taken over by HO needed? Comments

Once stabilised with the PM, send it for discussion to the people in column “taken over by” and make sure you have an agreement.

3. When the agreement is reached, send the invitations. Short and targeted sessions of 2 hours max, because  such sessions are tiring for both parties.

What will you put on the agenda?

For each task:

  • Contextual information
  • Next actions
  • People involved
  • Requested to complete
  • “Specials”

My advice is to give priority to the contextual information (why this task, what value does it bring, dependencies, challenges) and to the next actions. That kind of information usually is the most difficult to obtain, and therefore the most important to hand over. Also, take time to introduce the people you’ve been working with. Their roles in the company and in the project, and how the relationship went. Obviously, be clear on what needs to be completed to bring the task to a good end.

What is “specials”?

This covers everything you, as a professional, deem important to tell. It is by definition information that is unstructured, difficult to obtain, known by few and probably sensitive.

4. Prepare your session!

A 2 hours HO session requires 2 hours preparatory work! You will have to collect info, remember and document a couple of things and think about the “specials”. Don’t worry too much if not everything is put on paper. However, it is always a good idea to have a hand over doc per counterpart, where all the administrative details will be summed up too.

5. During the session, fight your tendency to tell everything and make sure you time-box the sessions strictly. Your counterpart is also a professional and in a position to investigate and ask questions. If the time is short: think twice before asking for more time. PM are professional too.




Handing over tasks is never straightforward, but I expect this easy approach will at least remove the “how do I start” burden. Tell me what you think, and good luck in your new endeavours!

I wish you a fantastic day.

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