I would like to share with you a case study about knowledge loss due to an internal promotion.
The background to this case study is very simple and I am sure something that you will recognise, either because you have been the manager of such a person, you have been in the same department or perhaps you have been that person.
We will call the person ‘Pat’.
Pat was very well liked and very, very good at his job. Each year he received excellent ratings in his staff evaluation and eventually his line manager and HR decided it was time for Pat to be promoted. Everyone was very please for Pat, people thought he deserved the promotion and everyone was excited about Pat moving into his new role.
And so the day duly came and Pat moved into his new role. At lunchtime his former colleges were eager to hear how he was getting on; what were the new people like; did he miss them; was the job more challenging than he expected; what was it like working in the new department?
On his second day in his new job the telephone rang and the caller asked for Pat’s advice, advice that he has so routinely given in the past. While he was very busy trying to come to terms with his new role, Pat was happy to oblige and did what he could over the telephone.
One the third day Pat got a further four calls from his former colleagues and while each time he tried to be of assistance, on each occasion he took less and less time to provide the advice.
By the fourth day, Pat was always ‘too busy’ to give advice to former colleagues but always promised to “call them back as soon as he was finished his meeting”, he never did. He was now focused on delighting his new boss and working towards another excellent in his annual staff evaluation. His knowledge was no longer available to his former colleagues, but that wasn’t his problem. Pat was now focused on his new role.
Not long afterwards his former manager realised they had a significant and growing problem. Pat had always been available and willing to share his knowledge with his colleagues but as they now realised, Pat’s knowledge was in his head, and the head was no longer available to them! If only they had documented what Pat did and how he did it!
When Pat’s new manager heard of their plight he was very sympathetic and agreed to loan them Pat for a day or so, provided it was a onetime event. They were to assume that after this loan period that Pat had effectively ‘left the company’ and that his knowledge could no longer be accessed by contacting him.
A knowledge handover interview was arranged which I conducted, and for two days Pat explained not only what he did but why he did it that way. The context behind the ‘how-to’ was provided together with worked examples. Pat even created a timeline showing the sequence in which things had to done and a list of his external contacts. All of the material was compiled into a knowledge asset that was then made available to his former colleagues, a sort of ‘Pat in a box’.
Everyone was happy; the former colleagues had access to Pat’s knowledge in the form of the knowledge asset; Pat’s new manager was happy because Pat could now give his undivided attention to his new role and Pat was happy because he could get on with the challenge of understanding and delivering in his new role.
The need to identify and document critical knowledge was highlighted within that client by the situation Pat found himself in. Everyone had assumed that because Pat was transferring within the company that his knowledge would continue to be available, an assumption that was very quickly proven to be wrong.
You may wish to avoid the assumption that if someone moves department that their knowledge will continue to be available to the organisation by identifying the critical knowledge that the department needs in order to continue to function efficiently and effectively and put a process in place to capture that knowledge before it becomes unavailable to you.
You may find the following checklist useful;
· Do you know the knowledge that is critical to the efficient and effective operation of the department?
· Have you a process in place to document and manager that critical knowledge? If not, put something in place now.
· Are you at risk of someone leaving the department due to promotion, who is a provider of any of that critical knowledge, if so design and implement knowledge handover interviews?
· Update the documented material with the new material.