Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Retaining organisational knowledge

I am about to embark on a trial program for knowledge retention at work. I have been thinking about this for some time and have recently (for the first time) been asked to try to capture some of the knowledge of a staff member who is leaving.


I am in two minds about an approach that attempts to 'capture knowledge' when staff leave. My focus has been on making knowledge more visible within the organisation by encouraging knowledge sharing and transfer from one to many. I am not convinced of the value of asking key staff to identify 'what they know' and think others 'may need to know'. What happens if I can capture and codify this 'information'? How does it become knowledge (that is useful to others) and for how long is it relevant?

I love the idea of retaining ex staff as experts, on a retainer, or as part of an alumni who can provide mentoring or advice as needed. I have found leaving speeches to be great tools as experts naturally summarise their greatest learnings and experiences and also tell interesting stories and anecdotes.

For this particular person I will be asking about what worked and what didn't in her role and in specific circumstances. It would be useful to know about the networks she has established and how she did this. Maybe advice for someone replacing her or new to the team?

Has anyone done this successfully in their workplace and been able to develop a set of questions that seem to work? I love the idea of storytelling, but am unsure how to initiate this in a one on one interview.

I know I will need to take a more holistic view of the knowledge in my organisation before I can successfully manage a program to retain it. Identifying what knowledge we need and want to retain may be the first step. Establishing a risk matrix and then putting in place a strategy to combat knowledge loss would be my next steps. We rarely, if ever have the luxury of having a replacement appointed before the knowledge leaves, so knowledge transfer from one expert to the next isn't possible.

Anyway, I am gathering some resources so will get reading and give it a go! I'll report back on my progress.

Some early reading on knowledge retention:
Nick Milton
Arshad Ahmed  
Knowledge Management Tools (KMT)
Jack Vinson