Saying farewell to a team member

Dec 11, 2019  ·  Paulius Tuzikas

I’ve seen more than 100 people leaving their companies and teams in the last 5 years. Sometimes they go to chase exciting challenges, get promoted or they're just looking for something new.


Unfortunately when someone leaves the knowledge that they've created and gained leaves the organisation as well. I've seen very few examples of when knowledge transfer was smooth and there was no negative impact created by someone leaving. More often people complain about the knowledge gaps and they become blocked for working on various initiatives.


You can make this better by taking the time as a team to be deliberate about knowledge sharing.


Here’s how I suggest you approach the situation:


What you can use


The Farewell canvas can be used as a conversation starter right after you hear that someone is about to leave. Hopefully you’ll hear about it a few weeks in advance rather than on the last day.


The canvas has six sections where four of them (1,2,4,5) are filled in by the person who is leaving and the other two (3,6) filled in by the team members.

The Farewell canvas
  1. Focus on three critical knowledge areas. There’s a limited time for knowledge transfer so maintaining focus can get you better outcomes. Feel free to adjust the number if your context requires that.
  2. Align on critical activities that have to be done to keep the ball rolling in the team.
  3. Create a space for unexpressed needs, concerns, doubts, and problems. Not all of them will be addressed on the spot, but making them visible is a great first step.
  4. People tend to share their open and honest opinion when leaving. It’s not a place to drop bombs or criticize various team members. Sharing a few things that could improve the team will create some food for positive thoughts.
  5. Acknowledge some great moments together and express your gratitude.
  6. Everyone shares one positive thing about the person who is leaving. What is one thing you admire? Let others know.

It’s essential to make sure that the conversation leads to actions which each have a leader defined. A leader is a person who will be driving the action, but not necessarily doing the whole thing alone.


How you can use the Farewell Canvas


Set up a session for the whole team and the person leaving. To have an effective, action-oriented session you can also fill sections 1-4 beforehand. This will create some time to think and focus on the action plan during the session. If you have more time - you can collaboratively fill the sections during the session.


Here’s how a 1-hour session could be structured:


  • Reviewing sections 1,2,3 and 4 [10min]
  • Defining key areas and specific actions to address them [30min]
  • Sharing thoughts from sections 5 and 6 [10min]
  • Deciding on follow-up and how actions will be taken [10min]

Be careful not to go into too much detail. These sessions are not about solving problems and executing actions but about making an action plan for how to transfer knowledge and address concerns. If you came up with 3-5 actions you are already on a good path. Feel free to have more than one session if needed.


What else do you do to approach knowledge transfer when people are leaving?


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Download the Farewell Canvas here

Categories: Agile Coaching.