Gorilla Flight 030 now departing…

“Arrgh! I already told you, he’s no longer with the company!”
Bob’s blood pressure had to be rising. Yes, his door was open, but I was also six cubes down the hall and could hear every word he said easily. He was talking on the phone, so I had to imagine what the other side was saying, but I could imagine.
“Look, I was his manager, I just want his laptop for a couple of hours so we can get some files off it. What? Yeah, fine, send me the paperwork and I’ll sign it, just get me the laptop.”
Tully had been a junior product manager, working for Bob. He’d been with us for about a year and he’d done such an amazing job that he’d been given the entire GARGAMEL product. And then MacroServe had recruited him away to work on their new game system. It was a dream job, dream pay and he’d jumped.
Only problem was he’d jumped only a week after giving notice and just before Bob left on a week trip to Asia. Tully handed his laptop off to IT and turned his badge over to the department admin on his last day. Bob had been chasing IT for the last week, to try and get Tully’s computer and all the files related to GARGAMEL.
Two hours later, Gus, the IT guy, walked by towards Bob’s office a laptop under his arm. Lumbering in his wake, Hogarth sidled into my cube. Plopping into the spare chair he grinned around a mouthful of banana.  “This is going to be good.”
I raised my eyebrows to my gorilla. “What do you mean?”
“Wait for it…”
Two minutes later Gus walked back, headed for the basement lair of all things IT. I turned and looked at Hogarth, raising my eyebrow again. Peaking over the cover of “How to win friends and influence people” he said “Wait for it…”
A minute later I heard a strangled cry from Bob’s office. This was followed by the most forceful phone dialing I’ve ever heard.
“Yes, this is Bob. Yeah, I got the laptop. NOW WHAT’S THE BLOODY PASSWORD!”
Hogarth set Carnagie’s book down. “Ah Tully, the grass was so green he didn’t stop to smell the roses of departure.”
I think the scariest thing about Hogarth’s words were that I understood what he meant completely.
Transition Planning, are you ready?
With the economy on the recovery we are not just seeing the jobless rate slowly creep down. We are also seeing the jobful starting to stick their heads up from their cubes and wonder if there might be a better cube out there. So say you have done that and the company down the road has offered you this really great cube. They really like you, they really want you to join their team and they made it worth your while.
So the question is, what about your current job?
“What do you mean whatta about my current job? I haven’t had a raise in four years! After surviving four layoffs I’m doing the work of six and there isn’t any sign the bosses want to hire again. Even if we have made huge profits the last two quarters.”
Ah, yes. There can be any number of reasons why you have no regrets on leaving your current employer. Or you could even not want to leave, but this new job is the perfect career move or will mean you can start paying down your debt. The question is, what will you do in the time between your resignation and the last day?
If you follow Hogarth’s advice, you’re going to be a very busy person. Manager-Tools did a three podcast series on “How to resign” (link is to the first cast). In this cast Mark and Mike outline twelve steps to resigning. Some of these only apply if you have direct reports, a large chunk have to do with you personally. As project managers (or any effective individual contributor) the key points are:
‐ Prepare a Key Project Report – Transition File*
What is the current status of any projects you are working on? Where are all the documents located? Who is responsible for what?
This isn’t a one page document, this is the keys to all your projects. Any files related to these projects should be put on a repository that can be accessed by multiple people.  With storage technology so compact, I’d also recommend putting your projects on a flash drive (A 4GB USB Thumb Drive is less than $15). You can hand that over to your boss an ensure the files will passed on.
Include the plans for the next three months. You’re the project manager so not just your plans but the project plans. People need to know not just where the project has been, but where is it supposed to go.
‐ Prepare instructions for your absence*
This is for everything else you do. Go look at your calendar and your to do list (for the next three months). What things are you doing? What department activities are you responsible for. Are you the only person who knows how to generate evaluation licenses for beta? Make sure you document them. Better yet, get someone identified and train them.
*- Credit where credit is due: These steps direct from the MT podcast. Descriptions are my own paraphrase of their advice, but is directly based on MT content.
You don’t do all this because you are required to do it, I’ve never known a company that has requirements for an outgoing employee. You do this because it is the professional thing to do. It is the right thing to do. I won’t trot out the ethics conversation in detail, but Project Mangers live and breath by our professionalism. The joke used to be “Silicon Valley is a small place”. I updated that joke recently to say “Silicon Valley is a small place and it spans the whole globe.” Don’t burn your bridges, they can’t easily be rebuilt.  And if you build a few bridges on your way out, all the better.
Two weeks is not enough:
So Hogarth’s example is on the dramatic side. Tully gave only a weeks notice and his boss was out of town for most of that time. Everyone generally accepts that two weeks is the “professional” thing to do. Long before I ever listened to Manager Tools (who also recommend four weeks), I didn’t agree with this. Sure, if you work at MacDonalds then two weeks is probably just fine. However, If you are in any kind of management job or major individual contributor role, then two weeks just isn’t enough time. Four weeks gives you enough time to train a replacement, to update any documents that need updating, to ensure smooth transitions with time for questions. Four weeks is professional (there I go again).
“But my new company wants me to start right away.”
Of course they want you to. But do they really need you to? If the answer is yes, then that’s a whole other series of red flags. Any company that is so demanding that you start “right away” may be hiding some big issues under that job offer. The company that wants you to start “next week” probably is hoping you’ll fix them right away. Go read the “90 day gorilla” for why that’s just bad.
Tell your new company you want to be professional and give enough time to transition your duties. Nine times out of ten you’ll have just been moved up a notch in their eyes. “This guy is a pro, we made the right decision.”
Always one to practice what I preach, let me share with you my own experience. In one of my prior company’s I did an almost five week transition. When I sat down with my boss, she was surprised but also very happy with my offer to stay that long and ensure a good transition. The interesting reaction came from people all over the company, as I informed them or the word of my departure spread. I got more than one question along the lines of “Why are you staying so long?” or statements like “I’d be out of here so fast, you’d see a cloud of dust.” Three weeks later I got a different reaction. More than one manager/director level person pulled me aside and thanked me for one of the most professional transitions they’d ever seen. They appreciated the transitions I’d did with their teams, the time I’d taken to make myself available and my positive attitude.
And my new company was more than happy to let me have that time. I had more than one positive comment on how long my transition was. I very much had the impression that I’d created a good impression because of the time I dedicated to the company I was leaving. “If he puts that kind of effort into a place he’s leaving, what will he do here?”
Be prepared: The Boy Scout motto is a very excellent tale of advisory caution to this advice. When you do resign, be prepared for that day to be your very last day. Though I believe it is much rarer now, some companies have been known to take the attitude that someone who resigns is a danger or threat. This can range from “He’ll steal all our company secrets,” to “If he sticks around, he’ll encourage others to leave.”
Because of this, ask yourself if you are prepared to walk from your bosses office straight to your car? Have you prepared your departure packet? Can they take your files and at least understand them and carry forward with them? Or is everything locked inside your PC, that IT will confiscate and your boss won’t be able to get the files off of even after a month of asking?
Many years back, I worked in technical support. It was a great team and the manager was a great guy. I gave the normal two weeks notice and told him I’d work full tilt right up to the last day. He was very appreciative, but turns out the decision wasn’t his. The “company” was worried about turn over in the group I was in and decided it was better to minimize my exposure to others. I’d resigned at 9:00 am. At 2:00 pm I was walking out the front door, a box of effects and a check for the next two weeks time. They would have rather paid me two weeks severance than have me around the other tech support reps.
In the end, you have to live with yourself. Did you give the job everything you could? Did you do what was right? Amazing how ethics and conscience are so inexorably tied together.
Joel Bancroft-Connors
The Gorilla Project Manager
Want me to talk to your gorilla? Send me an email
You can follow me on twitter, @JBC_PMP