Knowledge Management Strategies

Strategies for Groups

These knowledge transfer strategies involve one person transferring knowledge to a group of people, providing an efficient means to reach people who can benefit from this knowledge.

Communities of Place

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a proven knowledge management strategy. A Community of Practice is “a group of people who share a concern, set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder in Hammer, 2008). This collaboration and knowledge sharing results in transfer of knowledge and new technology which is then shared throughout the organization. CoPs can support problem solving and collaboration among participants in geographically dispersed locations. This interaction assists with identification of subject matter experts and provides access to their experience. Through regular interaction, participants create a “tight, effective loop of insight, problem identification, learning, and knowledge production” (Burk, 2000 in Hammer 2008). Within these groups, trust develops so that information imparted by participating subject matter experts is considered trustworthy and valuable. This level of trust supports dissemination of information. Informal networks may function within an organization, but the formation of a CoP implies leadership support and acknowledgment of the value of the strategy.

Communities of Practice

What• Sharing tacit knowledge to support problem solving and collaboration among participants in order to deepen knowledge and expertise.
Why• Creates a network of contacts
• Helps to identify subject matter experts
• Mechanism for sharing knowledge and new technology for the benefit of the organization
• Builds trust between participants which supports dissemination of information
When• Organized around a profession, shared roles, and/or common issues
• May be formed within a unit, with individuals in different units, or with individuals in various organizations
• Whenever tacit information can be shared to improve individual knowledge and support organization goals
How• Determine focus of the group
• Invite subject matter experts within the agency and in affiliate organizations
• Determine how often to meet and how meeting will occur
Strategies• Leadership must sanction the concept of Communities of Practice
• Participation is voluntary
• Management should not be involved in the group
• Focus is on sharing information, rather than taking action
NJDOT Examples
Links/ResourcesIntroduction to Communities of Practice
New Hampshire Knowledge Management & Transfer Model
Lessons Learned Database

A critical incident or lessons learned database serves as a repository for specific challenges met in project development and delivery. Recording processes and decisions that led to the incidents, and the subsequent resolutions can lead to process improvements, and revised standards and policies, thus saving others from duplicating errors or reinventing the wheel. This sharing of tacit knowledge enables the agency to manage risk through reductions in errors, and allows workers to see the rationale behind changes in processes and procedures, thereby increasing trust in the knowledge and information that underlie decisions. (Cronin and Hammer 2013).

Lesson Learned

What• A repository for specific challenges met in project development and delivery
Why• Provides documentation of a process and outcome that may help to identify a cause and effect
• Open discussions of critical incidents leads to new ideas for improved processes
• Provides the benefit of an individual’s experience and approach to problem-solving to others in similar situations
• Creates redundancy and avoids duplication of error and reinventing the wheel, leading to increased efficiency
When• Lessons learned should be documented at the end of a project process when findings are fresh
• Findings can also be recorded at strategic points in the process if delay in relating this information would be detrimental to the organization
How• Define characteristics of experiences that should be recorded in this database
• Describe process, what could have been improved as well as what worked
Strategies• Understanding decision-making process
NJDOT Examples• Program Management Office
Links/Resources
Boot Camp

Boot Camp is structured to train multiple employees on a specific topic, process, or procedure at one time. A subject matter expert relates the information in a single session of short duration (half day or less) or over several sequential sessions on related topics. This strategy can be employed when introducing a new procedure, updating an established procedure, or refreshing knowledge of an established procedure to ensure that all affected employees have the needed information.

Boot Camp

What• A training session of limited duration (no more than 4 hours) on one specific topic, or a series of sessions on various related topics. A subject matter expert (SME) conducts the training which might address use of a new piece of equipment or a new process, or provides a refresher on some procedure that is applicable to multiple employees.
Why• An efficient way to train employees that gives an opportunity for all attendees to benefit from questions asked and answered. The instructor can gauge the success of the knowledge transfer.
When• A new process or instrument is introduced and multiple employees need to learn to use it
• Refresher training is needed for effective use of an instrument or process, or changes in a process require updates for users
How• Define topic area(s) to be covered. Identify a SME to present
• Develop presentation materials and assessment measures
Strategies• Ensure that the presentation and discussion stays on topic and that the training stays within the half-day time frame
• Ensure that all affected employees attend training
NJDOT Examples
Links/Resources
Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag sessions are a recognized strategy for knowledge transfer. Such events provide an informal and low cost means for highlighting current and best practices, giving attention to new and emerging issues in transportation, and exploring the findings and implications of recent transportation research. These sessions involve a limited time commitment, but leadership support for the concept and time taken from work is necessary. Participants can suggest “hot topics” for future presentations through an end of session survey.

Brown Bag Lunch

What• Sharing tacit knowledge to support problem solving and collaboration among participants in order to deepen knowledge and expertise.
Why• Creates a network of contacts
• Helps to identify subject matter experts
• Mechanism for sharing knowledge and new technology for the benefit of the organization
• Builds trust between participants which supports dissemination of information
When• Organized around a profession, shared roles, and/or common issues
• May be formed within a unit, with individuals in different units, or with individuals in various organizations
• Whenever tacit information can be shared to improve individual knowledge and support organization goals
How• Determine focus of the group
• Invite subject matter experts within the agency and in affiliate organizations
• Determine how often to meet and how meeting will occur
Strategies• Leadership must sanction the concept of Communities of Practice
• Participation is voluntary
• Management should not be involved in the group
• Focus is on sharing information, rather than taking action
NJDOT Examples• Recent Tech Talk presentations: "The Autonomous Car and Our Disrupted Future" and “More than a Pretty Face(ade): Meeting Safety and Historic Requirements in Concrete Barriers”
Links/Resources
Expert Storytelling/Interviews

As individuals leave specific positions, interviews or storytelling sessions can capture their experiences. Frequently, these employees know the history of their units and are able to share significant events or policy shifts that have shaped the unit and the way things are done. By providing background for a process, or procedure, or steps taken to work through a problem, storytelling can engage listeners who are in similar positions. Storytelling can communicate the rationale for change when introducing a new procedure or process, or a new way of looking at the work. Storytelling can support decision making, encourage buy-in, or help market an idea, process, or procedure.

Expert Storytelling/Interviews

What• One or more experts in a particular subject, program, process, policy, etc. share their knowledge with a group or an individual by way of an interview or storytelling.
Why• Storytelling will provide the context and nuance that a desk manual may not communicate, explaining the “what” and “why” of a process, procedure, or experience.
When• When an individual with unique experience, or in a mission critical position, is preparing to leave or retire
How• Define the information to be shared and identify the individuals who can relate their experiences and the audience.
Strategies• Before the session, ask identified audience members for topic areas or specific information they are seeking to help storyteller to prepare
• Recording these sessions can provide another means to access this knowledge as long as the recording is stored.
NJDOT Examples
Links/Resources
Best Practice Meetings/Studies

Methods, processes, and strategies that are considered best practices will have been shown to be effective through implementation. Adoption of best practices results in time and cost savings, reduction in errors, managing risk. FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative promotes the sharing of best practices among DOTs to support efficiency and effectiveness in deployment of new technologies.

Best Practice Meetings/Studies

What• Meetings/Studies describe practices that have proven successful or effective in other organizations and can be duplicated. Best practices may be adopted between units within an organization.
Why• To increase efficiency and effectiveness, adopt practices that are successful in other organizations
• Share current practices in use within the organization
When• Developing a new process, task, or competency
• Modifying an existing process, task, or competency
• Marketing a new process or a successful process within the organization
How• Identify knowledge gaps and sources of knowledge and information. Determine the study or meeting format and content.
Strategies• Topics can be identified through surveying employees or through communities of practice
• Define the best practices to be researched and evaluated
• Best practices should be transferable to the organization
NJDOT Examples2011 Peer Exchange Managing with Reduced Resources: Best Practices in Streamlining Processes; Knowledge and Technical Transfer and Collaboration Within a Dynamic Workforce Environment
Links/Resources

Strategies for Individuals

These knowledge transfer strategies involve one person transferring knowledge to one other person at a time. These strategies are applicable when conveying technical details or information specific to a position or process.

Mentoring

A mentoring program can be an effective recruitment and retention strategy, and as such, should be supported by leadership. A mentor will be a senior staff member who functions as a coach, advisor, and teacher to a new employee or one who requests assistance and guidance in career development or personal growth within the organization. A mentor should be an individual outside of a mentee’s chain of supervision.  Both mentors and mentees can benefit from the relationship. Mentors benefit from identification as a role model, and can learn from the mentee’s questions and knowledge.

NJDOT’s Women in Transportation group runs a Department-wide mentoring program to encourage the sharing of knowledge and expertise among employees to build “a stronger, more adaptive organization.”

Mentoring

What• Mentors are senior staff who can assist individuals in working toward personal and professional goals and gaining knowledge of the organization. Established mentoring programs can support recruitment, retention, knowledge management and workforce development.
Why• Communicates knowledge of organizational culture
• Provides a reliable contact outside the immediate work hierarchy
• Guides individual in achieving career goals
• Aids in retention of talent
• Creates connections of trust within the organization
When• Individuals may seek a mentor when they wish to advance in a career, and when they need information on “how things work”
• Mentors listen, question, encourage, assess and help mentees develop greater professional skills to achieve personal and career goals.
How
Strategies• Mentors should have no performance management interest in the mentee.
• Mentoring may be effective in building stronger ties with new employees by pairing them with senior workers, thereby contributing to retention.
• Participation is voluntary
• Goals, objectives, and developmental needs identified at outset.
• Meetings and discussions are confidential.
• Ending the relationship at any time should be acceptable.
• Mentoring programs must be supported by leadership.
NJDOT Examples• Women In Transportation mentorship program, open to all staff. The group launched the program to encourage the sharing of knowledge and expertise among employees to build “a stronger, more adaptive organization.”
Links/Resources
Structured On-the-Job Training

Structured on-the-job training provides a trainee with direct instruction from an experienced worker and hands-on experience of the job at the job site. A structured program defines specific tasks and skills to be learned and a sequence of learning to build on knowledge. Documentation of knowledge transferred is required.

Structured On-the-Job Training

What• Structured learning process that provides hands-on training of skills or procedures
Why• Provides trainee with job experience. An individual with experience provides training that includes procedural steps and communicates tacit knowledge.
When• Practical training is necessary to ensure knowledge acquisition and equipment and materials needed to learn the job are not available in a classroom setting or it is not practicable to teach in a classroom.
How• Determine knowledge to be shared. Identify trainer
• Develop step-by-step instructions
• Establish learning objectives and timeline
• Present the lesson and have trainee describe the task and perform the task with supervision
• Ensure that trainee can perform the task independently
Strategies• Instructors should have thorough grasp of the job and should be skilled in teaching and coaching. These individuals may need resources.
• Develop step-by-step instructions to ensure complete instruction. Follow up with trainee.
NJDOT Examples
Links/Resources
Job Shadowing

This strategy can introduce workers to a particular position, and assist them with career decisions by identifying daily tasks, and the education and training required for a position and related positions. Workers will have a broader understanding of roles within the organization. Job shadowing serves as a coaching opportunity rather than a thorough training program.

Job Shadowing

What• A less experienced staff member follows a veteran staff member to learn the day-to-day procedures of a job, or aspects of a particular task, project or process.
Why• Provides learner with information about the organization and exposure to a particular position, possibly assisting individual(s) with career decisions. May be useful in workforce planning.
When• An individual seeks to know about a position in the organization.
How• Identify experienced staff member and individual(s) who will shadow. Determine knowledge transfer goals and timeline.
Strategies• Ensure that the experienced staff member is substantially more experienced and can provide, not only information on the job processes, but also job coaching. This is not a substitute for thorough on-the-job training; clarify up front the roles and goals
NJDOT Examples
Links/Resources
Cross Training (Mobility Assignments)

Cross training allows employees to learn about other positions in the organization while maintaining their own position. Cross training programs can share employees across units or within units. Advantages include creation of redundancy for a position. In the case of cross training between units, the practice can improve knowledge of the function of other units and how the work in various agency units fits together, and development of personal connections to other units which can also facilitate knowledge sharing on common tasks or projects. This strategy may assist with knowledge sharing in anticipation of a retirement or other loss of institutional knowledge, or in the event of a short- or long-term vacancy. A successful program requires coordination, supervision, and mentoring.

Cross Training (Mobility Assignments)

What• Training an employee to do the work of another
Why• An employee familiar with a role can fill in for the permanent employee on a short term or long term basis
• This strategy can be used to help employees understand different functions within the organization and gain skills and knowledge
When• In anticipation of a vacancy or other short- or long-term vacancy
• Within a structured program, introduces employees to agency functions outside their units
How• A structured program will identify appropriate use, timeframe for the training, and evaluation metrics for participants
• Within units, training for functional redundancy
Strategies• Determine approaches to involve new employees, employees at mid-level, and for leadership development
• Ensure that supervisors have adequate time to oversee individuals in a cross training program.
NJDOT Examples• Mobility assignments have been used to alleviate worker shortages.
Links/Resources