The idea of “passing the baton” in a relay race is often used as a metaphor for the handoffs that occur as work moves from one person or function of a business to the next. These transitions are critical junctures in organization transformation; being able to manage organization design “baton passes” well is one of the hallmarks of a successful change.
Much attention is focused on the point of transition itself, and how to avoid “dropping the baton” during that critical time. But to really avoid failure mode, it is helpful to start thinking about how to support the hand-off well in advance of the actual event.
Think Ahead for Smooth Transitions
The way any given phase of work is handled in an organization transformation will inevitably affect the ease with which the transition to the next phase of work will occur. For instance, the macro design phase of a transformation might technically be complete, but if it has not been well documented, clearly communicated, and approved, the handoffs to the micro design work streams are likely to be rough. They will likely have to spend extra time and effort attempting to make sense of the work done to date, or trying to bring someone up to speed who has been left out of the loop.
To avoid these scenarios, it helps to think ahead. When working on one phase of an organization transformation, start thinking from the get-go how to do that phase of the work in such a way as to facilitate an easy transition and help the next phase go smoothly.
Advance Planning for Successful Handoffs
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that while organization design work is typically done at a high level in the organization, the work will ultimately need to be implemented throughout the organization. High-level strategy or macro design will eventually need to cascade deeper into the organization. For the baton passes to be effective, we need to ensure that the people further down have all the information, documentation, and tools they need to implement the work effectively.
How can we make the baton pass easier for those leading the next phases of work (e.g., micro design or journey management)? It helps to check that the following are in place:
- The right people – Have you involved everyone who should be involved in this phase of the work in order to facilitate the hand-off to the next phase? Who will need to be involved in the next phase?
- Documentation – Is documentation in place that is clear, consistent, detailed, and adequate to enable the work to flow productively through to the next design phase?
- Approvals – Have all the necessary approvals, sponsorships, and/or buy-ins been obtained?
- Communication – Has the rationale and transformation journey been communicated to people, so that when they receive information from one phase of the project they know what they’re receiving and why, and where and how to take it forward?
When everyone on both ends of the baton understands the strategy, the scope of the work, their role and how it affects the roles of others, and how the work is expected to progress, it makes for a smooth transition between work phases. When done consistently throughout the change effort, mastering the handoff ultimately is one of the best things you can do to facilitate successful organization transformation.