Much of our work in the field of knowledge transfer is what my colleague Sherryl Christie calls “setting the stage.” We help our clients assess their workforce risk, figure out who holds critical knowledge that needs to be moved (we call this employee the “expert” or “peer mentor” in a knowledge silo), who needs to learn (we call these employees the “apprentices”), and then write plans to transfer the knowledge. These very important first steps wouldn’t matter much if we couldn’t then teach the experts to execute the knowledge transfer plans on the job. The big challenge with most experts is that they have so much experience, it is hard for them to know how to organize it into digestible chunks—the one hour sessions with their apprentices where the knowledge actually gets transferred. This is especially true because virtually every expert is already too busy to put much time into preparing to transfer their knowledge. That is why I developed a tool we at my knowledge transfer consulting firm called the 5-Minute Meeting Plan. It is fully explained in our Knowledge Transfer Workshop and in my book Teach What You Know: A Practical Leader’s Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring, but I can give you the basic concept here.
USING THE 5-MINUTE MEETING PLAN TOOL, YOU CREATE AN AGENDA IN REAL TIME
Let’s say you’re the expert and your apprentice needs you to teach her how to “Assess the impact to PIC Build when upgrading with SQL Server” or “Host an inspection of the emergency generator system by the NRC” or “Present our product’s value proposition to a client CEO.” You’ve done the task needing taught many times and it is tricky. There are lots of ways to go about it and it is hard to imagine explaining how to do it to someone else. Still, transferring your knowledge about this task is your goal and you have one-hour set aside to teach your apprentice. But, you have had no time to prepare in advance. This 5-Minute Meeting Plan tool helps you get organized by using the first five minutes of your one-hour session to create an outline. You can even have your apprentice help you create the outline as a first step in teaching her. The outline includes these elements:
- Write out the skill you’re going to teach.
- Say how the skill relates to your apprentice’s role.
- Outline the main points to teach, including answering your chosen knowledge transfer test questions.
- Define all of the jargon in the outline.
- Identify practice opportunities.
- Provide additional resources.
Use this format to create an outline before you jump in and start trying to teach the topic. It will guide your discussion and give your apprentice an anchor to follow the complexity and stay with you throughout. The outline itself will also be a resource for the future; you can teach from it the next time the topic comes up and your apprentice can use it to jog her memory as she prepares to take on the task herself. Experts love the tool because it keeps them from wasting time and apprentices love it because they no longer have to sit thru the well-intentioned rambling of a disorganized expert. Give it a try. You’ll be very surprised at how much better knowledge transfer sessions will go with such a small effort.