We helped a client with a big insight this week that I wanted to share. This client of our knowledge transfer firm is undertaking a big IT transition, moving support work from one part of the organization to another. This is knowledge transfer in the midst of change management. In some instances, the workers will be moved along with the work, but in many instances the workers will take on new roles and the transitioned support work will be done by a new team, some of whom are outsource partners.

Simultaneously, the need for the support work is in flux. Some of the applications will be shut down in the next six months. Others will have their “Tier 1 and 2” (basic) support done by the new team and “Tier 3 and 4” (complex) support done by the existing team. Oh, and there are several different executives (and budgets) leading these various teams. And, the teams are spread around the world. And, the transition has to be done in 120 days, headcount neutral.

Stressed out yet?

I actually loved hearing about this knowledge transfer challenge, because we knew exactly what to do to help these really smart people execute this transition:

  1. Use the Knowledge Silo Matrix to inventory the expertise, the experts (from the existing team) and the apprentices (from the new team).
  2. Analyze the risk to the business and prioritize the silos (applications) that need knowledge transfer first.
  3. Write master Skill Development Plans (SDPs) that break down the work in each silo into skills needed to do work at the task level. (A skill is defined as something someone can say “go do” and can be learned by a qualified apprentice in about 1 hour.)
  4. Customize the master SDPs by choosing only the skills and tasks that MUST be known by a designated apprentice and actively choosing NOT to transfer knowledge on the rest.
  5. Add up the hours required to transfer knowledge per each customized SDP (1 skill = 1 hour).
  6. Write a knowledge transfer project plan, knitting the work on executing the SDPs together with other regular work done by the experts and apprentices (e.g. set a target % of time to be spent transferring knowledge each week, set projected completion dates, etc.).
  7. Execute the knowledge transfer project plan.


The Big Insight

Step 4 on this list was the big insight. We can quickly identify and actively work on transferring the least amount of information possible for the applications where that would be the best, most responsible approach. No fat. No information glut. This is how we’re going to help this client stay headcount neutral—by NOT doing a bunch of useless work.

The side benefit of all of this is crisp role clarity at the task level for every person on the team (new and existing) associated with a high risk application in transition. And, we’ll use this plan to manage expectations for the transition from the front line to the C-Suite, as well as with internal customers of the application and their leaders. We’re going to reduce stress, reduce surprises, and make the whole thing work more predictably.

SUMMARY: Sometimes the best knowledge transfer strategy is to transfer as little knowledge as possible while still reducing your talent risk and maintaining business continuity. One example is when a workforce is undergoing a complex, stressful transition that needs to be executed quickly. Using our 3-step knowledge transfer tools, you can be sure that you are transferring only the critical, need-to-know knowledge to each worker rather than drowning them in CYA info. As a side bonus, everyone on your new and existing teams will be crystal clear about job role expectations on the other end of the transition for great change management.