Everyone learns their job in some version of the same way. You bang on the doors of the people around you, wade through the documentation that exists, listen in on conversations, show up at meetings, watch people who seem to get it, hang out with the nice person who seems less annoyed with all of your questions, etc. And, over time, you start to learn your job and develop some confidence and expertise. Knowledge transfer is happening. It is just happening slowly and sometimes badly.
Whether you’re onboarding, cross-training, retooling, up-skilling, or simply trying to manage workforce talent, you probably spend part of every workday either teaching what you know to others or learning from someone who is trying to teach you what they know. There really is no other way to learn a job. Sometime in the late 1990s we gave this process a name: knowledge transfer. Now, more than ever, businesses need knowledge transfer programs that work. They need a culture of knowledge transfer in their organizations that organically and continually moves critical knowledge into the heads of those who need it.
I’ve been thinking about and working with this topic since the early 90’s. I’ve written two books, run a ton of workshops, kicked around some of the most interesting companies on the planet, and watched this process happen over and over again; I’ve watched the busy experts with the big brains, and sometimes decades of experience, trying to figure out just what it is about what they do that others need to learn. Their co-workers are standing nearby trying to soak up the brilliance—if only they knew how to sort the brilliance from the blather. Management is watching and knows something isn’t going well, but has no idea what to do to help.
There has never been a more significant time to focus on the issue of knowledge transfer. You’re already living with the challenges. Most of you face at least half of these issues right now:
- New hires have recently joined your team and you’ve been asked to “look after" them.
- You just took on new responsibilities and need to hand off your old job to someone else.
- Your team is in growth mode and consistency is an issue. You’ve been asked to take a leadership role in sorting out the “best” way to do the work so others can model after you.
- You or someone on your team is about to retire and take their big, wise, experienced brains with them.
- A recent reorganization scrambled the familiar roles and you need to sort them out.
- Your project or product cycle just ended and the next one is about to begin. Who is going to do that work?
- A new process or system is being rolled out in your organization and you have to get everyone on board and using it.
- You are interested in management and would like to develop leadership skills to prepare for promotion.
- You have offsite/offshore partners and need to collaborate with them more effectively.
- Your company just acquired another company and you have to help assimilate their employees.
- You are the new hire or the experienced employee who needs to cross train by learning from a co-worker.
- You are the manager of a team with any of the issues above.
Every one of these situations has someone who “knows” and someone who “needs to know.” Effective, accurate, and timely knowledge transfer is the solution—and yet the business community and blogosphere lack quality resources, newsfeeds, and forums to inform, support, and discuss these issues.
So, we here at The Steve Trautman Co. are going to explore knowledge transfer, talent management, and issues related to teaching what you know by shining a bright light on the topic each week in this knowledge transer blog. We want to provide business news media, executives and emerging leaders, those guiding knowledge transfer programs, and peers proactively involved in day-to-day knowledge transfer with a place to hear about important news and knowledge transfer innovations. We want to be a resource for relevant, practical knowledge transfer strategies and know-how, and build a community where people can ask questions, debate, and share wisdom. We’ll feature various voices and guest posters—many from fortune 500s and 1000s—and as much impartial competitor information and timely news as we can.
This blog: a source for knowledge transfer, talent management, and the practice of teaching what you know.
We believe this is the first blog of its kind—and if that isn’t the case, we hope you’ll introduce us to others who can move the conversation along. Personally, I love a good story line, a dicey problem solved with a clever solution, and most of all a killer idea that can be explained in a 300–600 word blog. I am looking forward to hearing yours and sharing a few of ours.