I am a knowledge transfer consultant for The Steve Trautman Co. who has led two kinds of knowledge transfer projects: those with the benefit of an articulated organizational knowledge transfer strategy and those without that benefit. Steve asked me to write a guest post in this blog series, and I’m taking the opportunity to give you a few examples of how a good knowledge transfer strategy can be manifested in real work. When the rubber hits the road, you’ll get to see how taking the time to articulate a strategy makes a measurable difference in your organization.
The great thing about Steve’s Knowledge Transfer Guideposts is that they provide practical guidance to managers, mentors, and apprentices on the ground. Day-to-day decision making is easier, and you can be sure that knowledge transfer activities will be aligned across teams and will support the leadership vision for the organization.
WITHOUT A STRATEGY AND GUIDEPOSTS, RESULTS OF LARGE-SCALE KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER MAY BE LESS CONSISTENT AND PREDICTABLE
When I’ve worked with multiple teams in an organization without a knowledge transfer strategy, the results and follow-through from each of the teams is inconsistent. Since no one has set expectations for knowledge transfer at a higher level, each manager interprets for herself how to implement knowledge transfer for her team. This can result in highly varied outcomes, and even conflicts in an organization. Here’s an example that I saw happen some time ago in a large workforce. One manager implementing knowledge transfer on her software engineering team assumed that the expert employees who held critical knowledge to be transferred would be mentors shared across the organization to result in a high level of consistency—something she deemed important for the business. A second manager, who managed some of those experts—the assumed shared resources—was unwilling for his team to play that role of mentor across multiple engineering teams. This meant it was left up to the first manager to negotiate a compromise with the second manager. How much simpler and more time efficient it would have been if they both had clear direction from their leadership about how important consistency was or was not for the organization.
Without an articulated strategy, when time gets tight, managers and team members can also easily make assumptions about upper managements’ perspective on the priority of knowledge transfer. I once had a senior team manager, working without the benefit of a knowledge transfer strategy, express doubt that his organization’s executives would want to see a high level of activity on his knowledge transfer scorecard. On the contrary, I knew from a separate communication thread that this manager’s V.P. expected knowledge transfer to be a high priority for every individual in the organization. Without a knowledge transfer strategy articulated and communicated in this case, even a senior manager in the organization didn’t know how to prioritize project work against the knowledge transfer program that was designed to reduce critical risk on his team.
WITH A STRATEGY AND GUIDEPOSTS, FRONTLINE KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER DECISIONS ARE EASIER, QUICKER, ALIGNED WITH SENIOR MANAGEMENT GOALS, AND MORE MEASURABLE
With a knowledge transfer strategy, managers and individuals can be sure about the decisions they make on a daily basis concerning how to spend their time and how to manage their resources. Best of all, many of the Knowledge Transfer Guideposts can be translated directly into knowledge transfer metrics that are easily measured and tracked in regular team and business reviews. Having this level of clarity written down for all to see, and tracking tangible metrics on a regular basis, reinforces accountability at all levels of the organization. It also reassures team members that they have upper management support for making progress on knowledge transfer.
For one recent blue chip client, I was able to incorporate twelve Guideposts directly into a scorecard that teams use to track their knowledge transfer progress on a bi-weekly basis. Here are a few examples:
- Guidepost on Consistency Set High = A milestone was defined for teams to indicate they have checked their team risk assessment and reduction framework—in our case, called the Knowledge Silo Matrix (KSM)—against partner/parallel teams for consistency of critical knowledge areas (silos) and shared resources.
- Guidepost on Transparency Set High = A milestone was defined for teams to indicate they have internally published their KSM results.
- Guidepost on Degree of Rigor Set High = A metric was established that tracks the number of employees designated as learners-apprentices who have a customized Skill Development Plan to guide their learning. A second metric was established that tracks the number of hours experts-mentors are spending on knowledge transfer weekly.
With scorecard metrics like these and others translated directly from the client’s strategy Guideposts, teams and upper management can see at a glance whether or not their knowledge transfer program is producing the desired results—and where corrections and manager action is needed.
SUMMARY: A well developed and communicated knowledge transfer strategy makes a tangible difference to managers and individuals who are putting knowledge transfer changes into practice in an organization. Making decisions, collaborating on knowledge transfer between teams, staying aligned with executive-level vision, and tracking measurable progress is easier—even automatic in some cases—with the clarity of direction that a knowledge transfer strategy provides.