December 2021     Edition 160
Knowledge Transfer - Five Parts

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All organizations have employee turnover. 

People leave their job; they retire, move, change professions, go somewhere else for more opportunity, and get promoted or transfer to a new job within the same company.   When any of this happens, there is often a
knowledge transfer
that generally, and most of the time, informally, occurs to transfer responsibilities from the person leaving to the person who is inheriting those responsibilities.  When someone gives two weeks notice, it
s often a scramble.  When someone is retiring in six months, ideally, it
s an organized process, but often put off and then it
s also a scramble.


Knowledge transfer contains five parts

:  The










:  Whether it
s organized or a scramble, often the knowledge transfer event consists of only the first one or two elements in the list.


The What

:  Once a knowledge transfer requirement is recognized, it usually begins with the
Here is WHAT I do, i.e. what I
m responsible for
and now you are responsible for it.   This includes a list of all responsibilities, both small and large.  These are the deliverables in progress.  This might include the meetings, processes, supervisory things you do.  This includes the expectations of the job.


The How

: If there is a process or procedure behind what you do, then often (but not always), the
How I do it
, knowledge is transferred.   These are the applications I run to produce the deliverables I
m responsible for.  These are the directions.  These are the steps, the order of things, how I communicate, and interface with others.


After the above, it

s usually a

have a nice life and good luck

However, there are three additional components of a knowledge transfer that should be included in any knowledge transfer process.


The Why

:  It
s insufficient to just explain how one executes a defined procedure or set of instructions.  What is often left out is WHY those procedures or processes were created in the first place.   Why do we do it the way we do it.  The person who inherits the What and How may one day have to change something.  Without the knowledge of Why one does it the way they do it, there is a great risk of breaking something.   People generally don
t invent a process just for the heck of it, but for a purpose.  Not knowing what the why behind the purpose is setting things up for a big Oops down the road.  


The Experience

: Extremely important, and most difficult to gain is Experience Transfer.   This is something that What, How and Why won
t cover.  It
s all the nuances of the day-to-day execution of the responsibilities. It
s all the scars you have from making mistakes, or lessons learned.  Just telling someone what to do, and how to do it, and even why you do it that way, isn
t going to give that person the actual experience of doing it.  For example: if you are trying to teach someone how to drive a car, you can explain all the what, how and whys, but without them getting behind the wheel, they won
t know how to drive.  On top of this, your experience in driving includes knowledge about slippery roads after a rain, or people who jump red lights, or turn from the wrong lane.  These are important, and a lesson learned that if not transferred, will sadly be encountered again, perhaps with a bad result. 


This is where apprenticeships and internships come in.  This gives a person the real experience.   If you
ve inherited something, and don
t have experience, you need to get it, and you need to be allowed to get it.   Without the experience, you
ll make the same mistakes the other person did when they inherited things.   Managers need to allow their people time to gain experience.


Cross training is another great way to get a jump on knowledge transfer.  When you have people who are crossed trained, they understand the What, How, hopefully the why, and they have at least a little experience that allows them to quickly inherit responsibility.  Unfortunately, most organizations don
t have the excess capacity to cross train people in multiple jobs.


Shadowing is another great way to speed up a knowledge transfer.  No better way to learn than by example.   This sometimes occurs when knowledge transfer begins, but with only two weeks notice, it
s generally not a lot of time.  When you have months of time, shadowing is a great tool for knowledge transfer, including experience transfer.


Knowledge Transfer Process

: Make it formal.  Create a
knowledge transfer
document, toolset, and process.  In this way when someone leaves it doesn
t have to be a scramble and things forgotten.   This needs to be planned. It should include specific timetables, meetings and people involved.  A knowledge transfer template should be created so when it is needed, it can be filled with the specifics of the knowledge that is being transferred.  This will save the mad dash to figure things out on the fly.  Incorporate knowledge capture into your regular business process.   In this way, much of the What, How and Why can already be documented.


The Takeaway: 

Knowledge transfer is often overlooked until it
s so late in the game that it
s a scramble resulting in an inevitable knowledge loss.  This condemns an organization to repeat mistakes of the past.   Organizations will always have some degree of people turnover, so prepare for it with a formal knowledge transfer process that includes the What, How, Why and Experience transfer components

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