Organizations are growing quickly. Mergers, acquisitions and attrition are just some of the challenges to overcome when trying to maintain a knowledgeable workforce.
Companies battle everyday to maximize the capture of tacit and explicit knowledge from their employees and have come up with a number of ways to do so. Collaboration tools, knowledge maps , communities of practice, content management tools, after-action reviews and lessons learned sessions are just some of the methods organizations have devised to counter knowledge attrition.
No single approach however is enough to ensure that knowledge is retained, a mix and match of approaches is required. Though the bottom line is this, unless an organization’s culture is geared towards sharing knowledge, creating systems and processes to enable the sharing of knowledge is a moot point.
These approaches can be followed within the a project as well and become essential tools you , as a project manager, can use to your advantage in running a successful project.
The After-Action review:
This is a strategy that has been adopted from the military. Often after an engagement the team will sit down together and go over what occurred, analyzing strengths and weakness. This is an excellent feedback mechanism to promote learning within the team. On a large scale, trends and patterns can be observed by comparing multiple groups, allowing best practices and lessons learned to be replicated across teams.
Communities of Practice:
Is one of the simplest ways of connecting people who need knowledge with the groups that have it. Communities of practice are an excellent way to collect and disseminate information to a large audience. In order to maximize the use of a CoP a careful balance of leadership and freedom needs to be given to the community to promote sharing of ideas and knowledge, as a lack of leadership or direction could seriously damage the usefulness of the CoP in the long run.
Another great way to tap into the tacit knowledge that exists in the organization - the expert directories is a method by which people can interact directly with people considered Subject Matter Experts ( SME’s ) . This however requires voluntary participation by the experts as it requires them to devote time from their busy schedules to address questions that do not benefit them directly.
The simplest method of extracting and storing explicit information is the information repository. In its most basic form is a large folder with information stored in some sort of a structure. Advanced information repositories or content management systems use meta-tags and taxonomy structures to organize information for the end user in such a way as to provide the maximum value. By creating processes around the system, organization can ensure that all explicit information find’s a place somewhere in the application. It also acts as a medium for the transition of tacit knowledge to explicit.