It’s happened to most of us. You’ve spent hours or days on a document; researching to make sure you have all the right elements and necessary information added so that, when it comes to review time, you have minimal follow up. Or maybe you’ve been working on a solution (may that be a new process, a helpful macro, or maybe even a few hundred lines of code). You do all of this, only to find out that templates already exist with rich examples, or your solution has already been attempted and abandoned because it can’t ever meet the requirements of other business units.
After days or weeks of effort, you’re left sitting there, thinking “I would have saved myself an entire week of effort if I knew this before I started”, and asking “why didn’t I know about this before?”.
People are filled with knowledge, and more often than not, people are more than happy to share that knowledge. Taking the time to translate and capture that knowledge into something that is easy to understand and share, however, is the hard part.
Taking appropriate steps within your organisation to encourage knowledge capture and sharing in both projects and wider functional areas can have significant impact on overall productivity; heavily reducing re-work and introducing consistency across the board. The question you may now have is “OK well how do I do that? How do I capture, share, and re-share that knowledge so that it’s never forgotten?”
You may find some interest in some of the things we do at Agile Management Office to capture knowledge, ensure ease of access, and regularly share it across the organisation:
1. Maintain Central Repositories
A key part of contributing is creating something; a document, a process or workflow, or maybe even a line of code. Your creations, coupled with your understanding, is knowledge to someone else. In many cases, your creations are stored on your local PC or team-only repository, where it’s only shared if it’s required such as when someone has asked for it.
A key part to knowledge sharing is making sure you store it on an easily accessible, searchable, and central repository for all information. You could use an Enterprise Document Management System (EDMS) like SharePoint, a networked drive, or a wiki like Confluence. In fact, the reality is that most organisations already have these tools; they’re just not being utilised to their full capability or efficiently. Its recommended that you implement controls that ensure this information and knowledge is being centrally captured and is readily available to anyone who might be looking for it, a PMO can add significant value by supporting this type of activity.
2. Walkthroughs and Training
What comes natural to some, may not be to others. That goes for the way in which we learn, whether that is by reading / being trained / doing it ourselves, as well as the relevance of the topic or category of knowledge we are trying to learn. Building an environment that encourages staff (and leaders) to run showcases and workshops, or even produce scenarios that prompt other staff into problem solving for themselves, are some of the ways in which you can help boost knowledge and understanding.
3. Team Meetings
Just last month I allocated just 15 minutes in a client meeting to walk through the capabilities and benefits of using OneNote in their SharePoint Site. We have since seen the entire PMO team make a shift towards OneNote to jointly contribute to things like team meetings, updates, status of each client, etc.
That’s it. In just 15 minutes I was able to share my knowledge about a tool that we already had access to and how we could best use it within our organisation; knowledge that I’ve shared that is already paying dividends.
4. Capturing Lessons Learned
Our experience suggests that lessons learned meetings and registers are something that are often already implemented within the organisations we’ve dealt with but seldom used. The problem we find is that contributors don’t see value in capturing these lessons, especially after a project has already gone live, for a number of reasons. Not only that, there is rarely any communication or analysis done on these lessons that help avoid the same experiences in future. The result is low quality lessons and a tick-the-box attitude to this activity.
The solution here is to be a little more strategic on when you capture your lessons, how they’re categorised and detailed, and the steps taken (analysis and communication) to ensure that we share these lessons in a way that people can find value from them. You may choose to maintain a mailbox for someone to administer, or workshops where people can fill in system cards, but how you end up implementing this is specific to your organisation’s culture and processes.
5. Incentivise your staff
Who doesn’t love being rewarded! You do something good, and something good comes your way. There are a lot of ways in which we can reward team members for sharing their vast knowledge to their communities; often as simple as a ‘thank you’ email, or announcement, or post on the organisation’s intranet acknowledging that person’s effort is enough to incentivise a collaborative culture. If you’re so willing, you could allocate some budget to small prizes, gift vouchers, or maybe even go as far as to change the way in which bonuses are allocated.
Whichever way you decide to reward people, the idea is that they feel encouraged and empowered to make the workplace better for everyone.
We’d love to hear some of the ways your organisation encourages knowledge sharing; if any!