Today, we will talk about the subject of how to effectively transfer project knowledge.
Knowledge transfer, is to transfer and apply knowledge between different carriers, these carriers can be individual peoples, or organizations. Knowledge transfer contains two phases: sharing and absorbing.
The first phase of knowledge transfer is knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing can be achieved by face to face communication, and can also be achieved via E-mails, documentation. Knowledge absorbing refers to the knowledge recipient transforming the received knowledge to be knowledge of his own, and also refers to an organization transforming the received knowledge to be parts of its own organizational asset.
I believed that readers can now already understand, knowledge transfer is almost everywhere, because knowledge sharing and absorbing happen everywhere all the time. Indeed, whether some individual people is learning some kind of skill, or the development of entire human civilization, they are all achieved by continuous knowledge sharing and absorbing.
1 What can we do when the same issue happens repeatedly?
As project managers, we have to be there all the time, not only to serve our client, but also to serve and motivate our team members to do their job. These are works of management, which require techniques of management. Then, where does the knowledge of these techniques come from?
Motivation is one thing, continuously being obstructed by the same project issues is another. One fundamental and required skill of project manager is to continuously solving problems. During these processes, whether to motivate team members or to solve project problems, if lessons can be learned and documented, it would be much easier when we facing the same issue. Because we already have lessons drawn from former mistakes.
In a word, the core of knowledge transfer is how to gain knowledge and experience by performing a project, in order to further achieve knowledge sharing and absorbing. The goal is to simply avoid the same issue from happening again in the future.
Here is a practical case which I have been through.
Several years ago, I was in charge of an informational government project. The main objective of the project is to develop two parts of a larger informational system: online acceptance of government affairs and internal approval process. No matter the application of the system is for what place, what department, or what kind of business, the core of the system is basically the same.
But, in those years when I was in charge of the projects, same issues always happened:
First, during the process of system development, several bugs appeared, and was solved in the first release. After that, the first product was upgraded to an updated version. But when I was performing the third similar project, those bugs appeared in the software again, and so did in other afterward similar projects. These issues appeared regularly and repeatedly, and affected the delivering schedule severely. And almost let to a fight between me and the technical director of the project team.
Second, it took the implementation team about two months to get everything required ready (including materials required and all preconditions, etc. ), and to finish the investigation of all processes, and finally generate detailed business documentations of all implementations. But at the final summary meeting I discovered that all these works could actually be done in two weeks. But before that, in the earlier several projects, for each investigation for implementation, it all took two months, instead of just two weeks.
I was astonished by the fact that the implementation team’s efficiency was still not improved after they had performed all those similar projects. We all know that for software-system development human resource cost big part of project budget. If a relatively mature software product was developed in the first project, then in the second similar project it would start to profit. But in reality, due to the above-mentioned issues, the project cycle had not been shortened, and the cost of human resources was as high as usual, which lead to low performance of the entire program.
2 We found the cause!
At that time, I was thinking that the causes of all the issues must be found, otherwise similar projects can not be done in the future. Then, I held a meeting with test department, development department and all team members to discuss the issues. At last, we found the cause!
First, for the issue of “bugs appearing regularly and repeatedly”. Each time the developers had encountered the issue, they simply repaired the bugs but did not produce any summarized documentation to inform other members. As a result, when we summarized lesson learned at the end of the project, we could not see any documented information about those bugs. Then, the bugs appeared in the process of next similar project, and affected the quality of deliverable.
Second, for the issue of “efficiency of implementation not being improved”. We investigated the implementation team’s work, and found out that three projects had used three different project templates for the implementations. Each time, they had to explain to the clients about how to fill the particular template, which explains the implementation efficiency not being improved. In fact, my several formal projects were using uniform project templates for implementation. But these templates and information had not been documented and shared timely.
There are more issues like the above-mentioned issues. And I believed that many project managers have also had the same feeling and experience: why the same issues keep appearing? And why the so-called high efficiency method could not be applied in all projects?
3 Knowledge transfer can solve it!
Some concluded points are worth sharing:
1. The precondition of achieving knowledge transfer is to form a culture of processed and standardized summarizing and sharing in the organization.
In the upper case, I directly suggested the company’s leaders to set a specialized post or department to manage the knowledge transfer between different projects.
2. Training is needed for forming habits of sharing knowledge; monitoring and feedback are needed for examining the effectiveness of knowledge transfer between different projects.
In summary, this article shares a practical case of knowledge transfer and how to perform it. Hope this could help readers of the future work of project management.