TECHWISE : Walkouts & Wikis

TO: Bob
FROM: Kurt
SUBJECT: My resignation
Hi Bob
It’s with great deal of sadness that I tender my resignation, effective from the 31st of March, 2007. I have really enjoyed my time here as CIO. However, all good things must come to an end.
I’ve been offered new GM role, and it’s too good an opportunity to turn down. Many thanks for the opportunities and support you have given me while I’ve been here!
TO: Steve, Kim, Murray, Cath, Jen
SUBJECT: Kurt’s resignation
Guys –
Kurt’s resigned, and will be leaving us at the end of March. So we don’t have lot of time to find replacement!
We’ll all need to focus hard on ensuring that the handover goes smoothly. Kurt’s been an invaluable asset to this company, and we need to ensure we document as much of his thinking as possible before he leaves.
TO: Bob
FROM: Murray
CC: Steve, Kim, Cath, Jen
SUBJECT: RE: Kurt’s resignation
Hi Bob –
That’s terrible news! Kurt’s driving ton of projects – this is really going to torpedo our deadlines. Damn, just what I didn’t want to hear on Monday!

This is the sort of email conversation that’s usually followed by cold empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. One minute everything’s running smoothly, the team’s fired up and productive, and the next you’re facing the loss of key staff member.
There’s the usual flood of questions that race through your mind. What can we do to change his mind? How are we going to replace him? Is there anyone internally that could do the job? What are all the things we need to do before he leaves?
It’s never easy replacing key person. And it can be even harder when the person you have to replace has particularly specialised skills – as is often the case with IT staff.
It might sound obvious, but being proactive and planning for succession is by far the best way of ensuring the departure of key staff members causes minimum disruption to the business.
The first step is identifying those individuals in the organisation who are the biggest repositories of “organisational knowledge”. Ideally, these people should have an “understudy” – someone who is identified as possible replacement (even if it’s only in temporary capacity). An understudy needs to be involved in working day-to-day with the person they’re supporting, so that they can provide continuity if that person leaves.
If that’s not possible, the next best security measure is to ensure that when key person leaves they don’t take all their organisational knowledge with them. Make it priority to document critical organisational knowledge so that incoming staff can get up-to-speed as painlessly as possible. This means ensuring that you have thoroughly documented key systems, processes and projects, and that this documentation is up-to-date.
As we all know – which is why it’s seldom done – documenting systems, processes and procedures can be painful process. But as organisations grow in size, it’s an important part of ensuring the organisation continues to function effectively and efficiently.
Luckily there are tools that can help. Recently organisations have cottoned on to the power of web-based “community” tools such as “wikis” for gathering and recording organisational knowledge, and ensuring it is kept up-to-date.
Wikis are websites that allow users to add, edit and delete content. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, community “encyclopaedia” ( where the content is provided by the community of readers.
In the case of Wikipedia, content creation and editing is available to any member of the public – which can create all sorts of potential problems with accuracy of information. Scores of volunteer editors constantly review Wikipedia posts to ensure that they comply with editorial standards for “referencing” and accuracy – and there are often heated arguments over what should or shouldn’t be included.
However in corporate environment, wikis can offer great and inexpensive solution to the documentation headache. Many wiki software packages allow for varying levels of user access. And there are numerous free “open-source” wiki packages – including MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia.
The value of good documentation is not just limited to planning for succession. Well-documented systems and processes help organisations to operate efficiently. Staff members don’t spend time hunting for information about how to do things.
So take look at wikis – it might just make that next resignation letter less of kick in the guts, and your organisational efficiency might just benefit too.

Mark Evans runs Techtelligence, and is director of Sway.Tech, marketing, communications and strategy consultancy for hi-tech companies. [email protected]

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