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Knowledge Transfer: An Approach For Executing it Effectively

Knowledge Transfer: An Approach For Executing it Effectively

It’s Monday.

Just when you think everything is going smoothly in your IT group, a key resource notifies you of their departure from your organization.

To make matters more pressing, you only have 2-weeks to extract all of their knowledge and make it accessible.

Maybe this person is a software developer who built a key system from scratch, a database administrator who is the only person who actually understands the data model, or a business analyst who has vasts amount of system and programmatic knowledge stored in their head.

In any case, you need an effective way to transfer knowledge from their brains to your organization. An approach to capture, document, and distribute their knowledge across your team instead of losing it.

Because well documented and accessible shared knowledge is never lost.

Keep reading to learn how to effectively transfer knowledge within your organization, so you can maintain business as usual.

What is Knowledge Transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the method of capturing responsibilities, ideas, skills and personal knowledge from one or more individuals and sharing between one or more other individuals within an organization. Typically, this involves an employee who is leaving the organization or transitioning to a new role.

“Knowledge” isn’t just what is in a person’s head. It’s also what they do. The activities and responsibilities they perform in order to meet operational objectives.

Some of these activities may even go unnoticed by an individual and those around them. Especially if they’ve been doing it long enough. Those user accounts that get deactivated like magic every 6 months?

Maybe that is a task that your soon departing Business Analyst has in their notes saved to their local PC.

How to Effectively Execute a Knowledge Transfer Plan

There are an endless number of ideas and activities that a single employee is a part of throughout their time within the organization. It is impossible to capture every chunk of knowledge, but it is certainly possible to capture the pieces that your organization needs to continue operating as usual.

You’re short on time with your departing resource, so you can’t afford to waste time planning out and executing complicated methodologies. You need a simple plan of action to help your organization transition from personal knowledge to shared knowledge.

Assuming that you have already identified a replacement, here are the steps:

Knowledge Transfer Process

1. Develop a Topic Coverage Plan

The time you have with your departing employee is limited. So, take some time to develop a baseline high level list of all known topic areas you need to cover. This will maximize your time during knowledge transfer sessions, so you can focus on the unknowns and the details.

The areas of most importance will be first on everyone’s list. Involve the individuals who collaborated with the departing employee, so they can add their interaction points. And most importantly, take time to go through with your departing employee during or before your first knowledge transfer session.

Deliverables:

  • Topic Tracker

2. Hold Knowledge Transfer Sessions

Now that you have the high level areas to cover, it’s time to dive into the details and potential unknowns. The best way to do this is simply by spending time with your departing resource. If you have a replacement employee identified, it’s time for he or she to become a sponge of knowledge.

There are a few things that can help make knowledge transfer sessions as productive as possible:

Take detailed meeting minutes

Documented knowledge is only going to be as robust as what you’re able to capture during knowledge transfer sessions. Meeting minutes need to be as detailed as possible. Organizing and categorizing these notes can happen outside of meeting time.

Capture knowledge through screen recordings

If possible and applicable, recording knowledge transfer sessions can be a huge benefit. This is especially useful when working through specific multi-step tasks that your departing employee completes. You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million.

Utilize your topic tracker to facilitate discussions and capture status

Your topic tracker is going to serve multi purposes as you work through your knowledge transfer sessions. It will drive discussion topics, help capture new topics that come up during meetings, and capture the status of each topic (covered, not covered, etc.). In addition, the location of meeting minutes and screen recordings for each topic should be added for organized referencing.

Deliverables:

  • Topic Tracker – Updated with coverage status of topics and where to find the captured details of each topic
  • Knowledge Transfer Meeting Notes
  • Knowledge Transfer Screen Recordings

3. Document and Distribute Knowledge

You have your knowledge documented. Think of the meeting notes, recordings, and tracker as your raw data. Now, you need to get that data into presentable form, so it can truly be transformed into shared knowledge.

As you work through organizing your notes and topics, you should keep the knowledge transfer goal in mind. That goal is to transform personal knowledge into shared knowledge. So, you need to create some form of a knowledge base that can be referenced by your organization. Not only is the creation of this knowledge base a great exercising for educating your replacement employee, it is also a way to keep the captured knowledge safe for the future.

How you want to create the knowledge base is a preference, depends on the situation, and how your organization currently shares information. But, it needs to be highly organized and easily searchable. MS OneNote works well for application knowledge bases. Word documents that point to the appropriate files in a shared folder work well for more technical resources that have many work products that need to be referenced.

At this point, your departing resource may be gone or inaccessible. And that’s okay. Because you maximized your time with them and translated their personal knowledge into shared knowledge. But, if you do have access to them, it would be a great exercise to have them review your knowledge base.

Deliverables:

  • Knowledge Base

How to Execute Knowledge Transfer: A Real World Case Study

A key resource and owner of a state based agency’s system of record is departing. Citizens and entities of the state apply for benefits across multiple programs using the system. These benefits are then distributed to those applicants found eligible. Nonetheless, this system is critical to meeting the agency’s objectives and more importantly, serving the public.

With this departure, the organization is at risk of losing extensive technical and programmatic knowledge that was gained while working in a Project Manager / Business Analyst role since system implementation over 7 years ago.

A new employee was quickly hired and rolled onto the project. This individual was new to the organization and had no experience with the system. So, a comprehensive transfer of knowledge was required to maintain business continuity. And due to different circumstances, the organization only had 1 hour per day for two weeks with the departing employee.

Let’s look at the knowledge transfer steps that were executed to ensure minimal knowledge loss and operational downtime.

1. Case Study – Develop a Topic Coverage Plan

Prior to the first knowledge transfer session, the employee’s manager developed a list of key topic areas to cover. This included recurring system maintenance tasks for which step-by-step details were needed, general system and programmatic knowledge transfer, and project management details.

This list of topics was added to an Excel spreadsheet and organized by importance. The items with the highest priority – such as audit coverage and recurring system maintenance tasks required to maintain operations – were to be addressed first. The first knowledge transfer session was then used to go through the list and capture any other items that needed to be covered.

Deliverables:

  • Topic Tracker
Knowledge Transfer Topic Tracker Sample

Topic tracker sample.

2. Hold Knowledge Transfer Sessions

Knowledge transfer sessions occurred via 1 hour web meetings for two weeks. They included the replacement employee, program manager, and program director in addition to the departing resource.

These sessions were recorded and detailed meeting notes were taken by the replacement employee. The replacement employee was tasked with facilitating the meetings, taking notes, and organizing as needed.

The topic tracker was updated after each meeting to include the updated status of topic areas and the references of where to find the covered topics in the meeting notes and recordings.

Deliverables:

  • Topic Tracker – Updated with coverage status of topics and where to find the captured details of each topic
  • Knowledge Transfer Meeting Notes
  • Knowledge Transfer Screen Recordings

Knowledge Base Development Process

3. Document and Distribute Knowledge

Upon the completion of the 2 weeks of knowledge transfer sessions, the organization was armed with over 27 pages of detailed meeting notes and screen recordings of each session.

Using these notes and newly acquired knowledge, the replacement employee was tasked with building out an MS OneNote knowledge base that was segmented into an operation manual, the release management process for new system builds, and processes for supporting various groups in the organization such as legal and audit.

To put the icing on the transformation to shared knowledge cake, the knowledge base was loaded to a SharePoint folder that the rest of the organization had access to.

Deliverables:

  • Knowledge Base

 

Do You Need Help Sharing Knowledge in Your Organization?

If you’re losing a key resource or in need of better knowledge distribution across your organization, then we can help. At Karma Advisory, we’ve assisted organizations like yours in transforming tribal knowledge into useful organizational knowledge.

We believe that an IT organization’s strength lies in its shared knowledge. And siloed, inaccessible expertise is a risk.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help document and distribute your knowledge across your organization, then email hello@karmaadvisory.com or use the contact form below.