Elegant knowledge transfer

A landscape with reeds on the left and forest on the right. A kite is flying in the sky.

Let’s say you’re leaving a software team and somebody else is joining the team to replace you. How do you efficiently transfer knowledge to the new person in short time?

My answer is that you… don’t.

You can bring on the new member in the usual way. Maybe somebody gives a presentation, maybe you’ll pair-code. The new person starts with some easy tasks that act as a good introduction.

I hope you have a great README. The common knowledge should ideally be encoded in the shared artifacts of the team: the software itself, the documentation, and the project management tools. This helps with onboarding.

You can’t, however, teach everything an individual has learned over the course of months and years in a week or two - unless you’ve poured a lot of effort into making it teachable.

If you have specialized knowledge, you can try to teach it to the existing team members instead of the newcomer. At least you have a lot more of common ground with them.

I believe people understand this intuitively yet I keep seeing well-resourced organizations doing rushed hand-offs. I assume it’s to keep costs down. It causes a loss of tacit knowledge, but that’s hard to measure so it’s assumed to be essentially free.

Comments or questions? Send me an e-mail.