Whether it’s the introduction of a new system or process, integrating a team or a whole company, on-boarding new employees, or combining existing resources to create a new, scalable capability – fundamental to the success of each of these endeavors is education and training. Underpinning both of these elements is the critical impact of knowledge transfer (KT). The overarching goal is to enable the organization to effectively and economically manage, share and transition knowledge of scientific, analytical, technical, and financial information and practices, leverage and expand capabilities across boundaries, and build a new, scalable operating model.
The major objectives of a solid knowledge transfer initiative include:
- Ensuring that your organization’s processes and practices are documented;
- Leveraging and sharing the best practices;
- Providing a leg up to those being asked (expected) to change or adapt;
- Supporting an efficient and speedy transition.
Unfortunately, we find that in most of these situations, the current state – whether it’s outdated or state-of-the-art – is not well-documented, because it’s assumed to be known and understood. And that may, in fact be true – however, if it is not fully or clearly documented, there is a risk that the end-to-end process is not fully known to all. Typically, each player in the process knows his or her “bit”, and perhaps an intermediary manager understands how this handful of these “bits” fits together. So, what’s the problem here? Its only when the combination of “bits”, otherwise known as sub-processes, are laid out in sequence, that the full effort and expertise that is required can be recognized, appreciated and ultimately documented. The nature of the process is not relevant — the need for current state documentation applies whether you are trying to produce an accurate bi-weekly payroll, design and implement a phase I clinical trial or manufacture a new lightbulb design.
Another perhaps more sensitive question at this juncture is “Are the current staff executing the sub-processes prepared and willing to share their expertise in order to fully document the work flow?” Inevitably it may come down to “what’s in it for me?” They will need to be incented to take on this documentation process and support the knowledge transfer while carrying out their current work to ensure continuity and coverage during the transition. Motivating the current staff can be challenging if the employee(s) are retiring, separating and/or shifting into a new role. But it can be done using tangible incentives such as bonuses, recognition, and the opportunity to stretch into a new role as trainer. Another scenario is that after the knowledge is successfully transferred, the current staff’s work will be elevated to incorporate more strategic assignments.
By documenting the process or activity – building process maps, producing RACI outlines, and detailing job descriptions – organizations can begin to make improvements and modifications. But that’s a totally different article. So, assuming we have a well-documented work effort, how does this translate into an effective knowledge transfer plan?
Here are some key questions to consider:
- Is there clarity and agreement on the end-to-end processes being transitioned?
- Will everyone who needs the new information, process understanding, and/or skill be available at the same time?
- Do they all speak the same language?
- Can the organization recruit people with the fundamental education or skill set to take on this new work?
- Will they be in the same location and/or time zone?
- How many people are directly impacted?
- Who else in the organization will be affected by this change?
Once you have that data, you can begin to lay out a content development plan for either in-person or on-line training, and develop the logistics and delivery timeline to release the content – whether content is released all at once or in waves. Additionally, it may be valuable, or even essential for the “new-to-this-process” person to shadow the staff who currently does the work today. Two additional considerations at this stage are the logistics associated with scheduling that additional layer of learning and determining what other resources or people will be needed to support the training.
Additional concerns for content development include:
- Interactivity – how will students engage with the material? Will there be activities, hands-on exercises, robust question and answer periods?
- Testing – Will the student need to be tested on his/her knowledge (there may be regulatory considerations influencing this answer);
- Resources – What resources are currently available to be leveraged, i.e. and L&D organization and/or learning management system?
- Reference Materials – Depending on the complexity of the end-to-end work flow, will workbooks, handouts or quick reference guides be needed?
- Training – If the material is to be delivered as an instructor-led training, how many instructors will be needed?
- Shadowing – What tasks or activities will be best transferred by having someone shadow someone currently doing the work? Are the tasks documented today?
Given the dynamics of business today where change is the new normal, knowledge transfer is an essential element in most change management efforts and should be managed and measured to validate its success. The ultimate measurement is that after the completed transition, the client’s expectations for the quality and timeliness of the work are met or exceeded.
Monica Morgan | Consultant | TayganPoint Consulting Group | firstname.lastname@example.org