April 11, 2012

The Spark.

The Spark: Passing the Torch - Officer Transition for Outgoing Officers

Welcome to The Spark - a tidbit of wisdom to stimulate ideas and help you transform your student organization. The Spark is a bi-weekly resource provided through the Center for Student Involvement which is sent to all registered officers through PantherSync.

As the semester draws to a close, many organizations will be holding elections and preparing to transfer responsibilities to a new group of officers. The time and energy that you dedicate to an adequate transition of officers during these last few weeks will play a key factor in the future success and longevity of the organization.

A smooth officer transition is:
• The responsibility of both the outgoing and incoming officers
• A way to avoid starting over from scratch each year
• A transfer of significant organizational knowledge
• A sense of closure for the outgoing members
• A time for new leadership to absorb the experience of the outgoing members
• An opportunity to evaluate and reflect on the past year
• An orientation and goal setting process

Prepare the right materials. Organize the following items for the incoming officer. If any are items that you do not currently have, consider which need to be created. Focus on sharing files that will help them learn their position and avoid duplicating work that has already been done. There may be some things that you can eliminate.
• Constitution/bylaws and any other governing documents
• University policies and procedures
• Budget and financial records – make sure to include information on any grant applications
• Checkbook/ledger (if you have financial responsibilities)
• Keys and/or passwords
• Organization/team equipment
• Contact list
• Past goals/strategic plan
• Calendar
• Past meeting minutes
• Detailed reports on any major events, including the planning timeline, step-by-step plans, and notes on areas of improvement
• Any other important files or documents

Go Green. Rather than printing documents and compiling into a binder, you can make use of many other electronic resources for file sharing. Pass everything over via a flash drive, or utilizing online tools such as Dropbox, or Google Docs. PantherSync also allows for sharing documents within an organization through its online folder feature. If your organization gets in the habit of posting shared files regularly, it will save time down the road.

Meet one-on-one. Set aside at least an hour to meet face-to-face with the officer who will be taking over your responsibilities. Do not just pass on a binder. Make time for them. This is your opportunity to transfer important knowledge and to share your insight regarding any goals or major areas of need for the upcoming semester/year. It is also their opportunity to get their questions answered from the expert – You!

Utilize the following questions as a guide for your conversation:
1. What went well? What should the group/officer continue doing?
2. What problems or stumbling blocks did you encounter? How did you handle them?
3. What projects would you have liked to do if you had the time?
4. What would you have done differently if you had the opportunity?
5. How did you stay organized?
6. Is there any unfinished business that the new officer needs to address? Any summer tasks?
7. What advice do you have?

Meet as a group. It is up to the group to determine how much time to set aside for a group transition. Group officer transition can be done in a meeting, workshop or retreat format. It can be as formal or informal as you want it to be. The important thing is to provide the opportunity for incoming and outgoing officers to get together for a discussion together and identify organization needs and goals. Some tools that you can utilize to facilitate this process include a SWOT Analysis, a Stop-Start-Continue Plan, and SMART Goal Setting. Get a date on the calendar soon, as it is a busy time of year.

Recognize the work you have done. Be proud of the time and energy that you have dedicated to advancing your organization. Now it is time to assist a new batch of leaders in doing the same.

Want more guidance in developing an officer transition plan? Schedule an officer transition workshop with the Center for Student Involvement Staff. To make a training request, visit www.activities.uwm.edu and click on Organization Training and complete the Training Request for Registered Student Organization form. You can also access this form in PantherSync through the "Forms" tool. Consultations may also be requested by emailing activities@uwm.edu or calling 414-229-5780.