Tip: Ask for an Elevator Speech for Knowledge Transfer

07/26/13

Posted by Steve Trautman

I recently had a great experience working outside Paris with a group of project managers from nineteen countries around the world.  They are transferring knowledge on how to build half billion Euro (and up) construction projects.  This client’s knowledge transfer sponsor, a vice president from Italy, stayed for my company’s entire Knowledge Transfer Workshop and then had some good advice for his organization’s mentors (experienced employees designated to teach peers their skills and knowledge) and apprentices (employees tagged to learn).  I wanted to share his advice with you. 

The VP said that this knowledge transfer project was undoubtedly critical for the company’s future, as senior projects managers (PMs) are retiring and the next generation must take over.  He wanted the PMs to know that despite how important the project was, there were many other priorities competing for the attention of his peers (their bosses).  He said it would be up to the participants to continue to sell the value of the effort to their own management chain to ensure continued funding and support. 

COMMUNICATION & CHANGE MANAGEMENT TIP:  ASK FOR A KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER “ELEVATOR SPEECH”
The VP suggested that everyone prepare a 2 – 3 minute “elevator speech” so they could give a clear  explanation of the value of the knowledge transfer experience.  It wouldn’t do to simply say, “The knowledge transfer workshop was great, and I’m really glad I went.”  Instead, participants had to be able to talk about the impact that structured knowledge transfer would have on how fast they would learn to take on greater roles in these big manufacturing projects. 

Here is a paraphrased elevator speech that one of the apprentices came up with.  It was videotaped and I’m working to get a copy so we can post it for you.  The apprentice said:

After this knowledge transfer workshop I can see that there are 16 knowledge silos that make up all of the skills I need to be a Level 3 or 4 Project Manager.

In each silo there are 30 – 60 tasks and skills that I need to learn how to do to become fully independent and successful in the PM role here.

In talking with my mentor, I have customized a Skill Development Plan that focuses me on about 40 specific tasks and skills that are the highest priority for me.

My mentor and I have a plan for him to teach me all of those skills in the next quarter.  That will position me to support my current project and prepare me for a larger role in the near future.  It looks like this will get me where I need in about half the time I would have taken otherwise.  I’m very excited to have this opportunity to really focus on my future with the company.

This is a great example of an elevator speech because it is quick, clear, and specific about defining the need, how the knowledge transfer project resulted in a plan to address the need, and the benefits to the employee and the company (in this case ramping up in the half the typical time; greater employee engagement and satisfaction).

This client had invested heavily to fly more than 50 of their top people from around the world to one location for three days to launch their knowledge transfer project and attend our workshop.  The VP wisely wanted everyone who was invited to take responsibility for having measurable results and being adept at talking about what the company’s executives around the world could expect from the investment.  SUMMARY:  The VP’s advice that each participant write an elevator speech for knowledge transfer helped to continue to sell the effort to management and maintain its priority, while also reinforcing the expectation of results.

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Knowledge Transfer Today Blog — A source for knowledge transfer, talent management, and the practice of teaching what you know.

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Steve Trautman is corporate America’s leading knowledge transfer expert. With two decades of application inside blue chips and Fortune 1000s, his pioneering work in the field of knowledge transfer and related risk management tools are now the nationally-recognized gold standard. He is known for a high energy style that combines humor, street smarts, and board room wisdom. More about Steve