Lots of people use the word strategy very loosely. The word gets thrown around in business like people put salt on food. For some, a strategic plan is a one-page bulleted list; for others, it’s a 40-page treatise about who an organization is going to be in the future, how that’s going to look and feel, even including the tactics to get them there. I bring this up in this knowledge transfer strategy blog series because before you create any knowledge transfer strategy, you need to think about defining what you mean by strategy.
In my way of thinking, a knowledge transfer strategy does these things:
- Helps define how a company develops its talent, giving clear guidance on issues such as role clarity, standards, consistency, transparency, and priority.
- Sets direction for which knowledge transfer tools and processes will be adopted and how they will fit into an organization 1-3 years from now.
- Defines what aspects of knowledge transfer will not be adopted in the 1-3 year window.
Strategy should work to stay high level—it should not get tactical. For example, a strategy might say that participants should target 15% of their work week on transferring knowledge—that’s strategic because it guides employees as they try to figure out the level of importance this work should play in their day to day job. But the strategy wouldn’t say, “You have to do it all on Mondays”—that would be too tactical.
What Makes A Good Knowledge Transfer Strategy?
You’ll know it is a good strategy if it helps people make decisions about how they’ll direct their knowledge transfer effort. For example, should employees line up behind one expert and work toward a high degree of consistency? Should the knowledge transfer effort appear in their performance reviews and potentially affect compensation? Should they report on the results of their knowledge transfer efforts and if so, to what level of the hierarchy? Under what circumstances should they prioritize knowledge transfer over other project work? Is knowledge transfer initiated by a centralized “Center of Excellence” or in a more ad hoc way as managers see fit? Who is accountable for ensuring the knowledge is transferred? The mentor/expert worker, the manager, or the learner/apprentice worker?
These are executive level questions that must be answered in the strategy, because each one shapes how employees will focus their time and energy. Imagine the difference between an expert who believes that he is required to spend 10% – 15% of every work week engaged in knowledge versus an expert who mainly just fits knowledge transfer in when it is convenient? Or how would an expert behave differently if she has been asked to define a standard for a job skill in her work and then ensure that standard is consistently met by her peers using that skill?
Setting strategy is about making choices. It requires articulating the options and choosing one over the other so that employees on the front line can be freed up to execute and not second-guess every decision. We’ll provide more detail on this in subsequent blog posts.
Follow This Series and Join the Discussion
We invite you to follow this new blog series and to join the greater knowledge transfer community in discussing strategy. You can easily subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange RSS symbol near the top of this page to receive new blog posts by email or in your choice of feed reader. You invite you to sign up in advance to receive our Knowledge Transfer Strategy white paper, which will be released at the end of the blog series (and also from this signup page you can download our current white paper: Knowledge Transfer: Preserving Your Secret Sauce). And, we welcome your comments, questions, and requests below about what you’d like to see in this blog series—or feel free to email me directly.
So, how do you define a strategy? What do you think should be parts of a knowledge transfer strategy?