In this stage, you’ll formally review the package of information, data, and learning so you can close the project down. Often projects do a reasonable job of informing everyone what is changing, but don’t always leave a good solid piece of documentation that somebody coming into the business two years later can pick up.
Knowledge transfer is a key part of handover. It’s the systematic strategy for capturing critical knowledge from key people to store and share with within an organisation. If you keep all the knowledge to yourself and you don’t write it down, it’ll make it difficult for others to pick it up later. You’ve acquired some great knowledge. You got right down into the detail, saw all the issues and the risks. Therefore you must share your insider knowledge.
Sometimes you might be staying with the organisation where the change took place. Sometimes not. Often people are brought in to help organisations with their projects and then they go off to the next place. Good practice is to hand over that knowledge so that there is robustness and longevity in the business.
How it’s done – aka the POEM method
We love a good acronym. POEM stands for Pinpoint, Obtain, Execute, and Measure, and this is a simple way of kind of transferring knowledge.
Determine who you are collecting knowledge from, what information you need to capture, and your goals for the knowledge transfer.
Exactly what it says on the tin. Capturing that knowledge from those people that you’ve identified, the critical tasks, the availability of the information, the impact level and resources of that knowledge.
Share that knowledge. There’s lots of different ways to do that, mentoring, guided experience, simulation, centre of excellence, documentation, or training.
At the end of all that knowledge gathering and then sharing, have we shown that we’ve transferred the knowledge? We need to measure it with learning outcomes and prove it.
Types of knowledge
There are two types of knowledge: tacit and explicit.
Tacit knowledge is that knowledge that’s hard to transfer or pass along through writing or speaking. Basically, this is the knowledge that you acquire through doing or through experience.
Whereas explicit knowledge is knowledge that’s easily shared and transferred through writing or speaking.
Explicit knowledge is easier to hand over because you can document it more easily, or you can talk about it more easily. Tacit knowledge is a lot more difficult and quite often only comes with experience. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a good go at trying to share it.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself at this stage of this process:
- Who are the go-to people in the organisation? (Don’t forget to refer to your trusty RACI at this point, it might help)
- What do only they know how to do?
- If they left tomorrow, would anyone else know what to do?
- When they’re away on holiday, what piles up because only they know it?
- What does the team rely on them for?
- What is the obvious stuff you assume everyone knows?
This is about being methodical and logical in your approach to obtaining the information. Build up some metrics or a spreadsheet to collect this sort of information. List out the individual(s) who you’re collecting knowledge from, the critical tasks they oversee and how important they are, the availability of the information. For example, does anyone else in the organisation know or have access to it? What is the impact of others not having this information, and what are the resources needed to share the information? Build up the library of knowledge.
Once the information’s gathered and stored, it’s time to go and execute.
There’s a few different tried and tested methods to transfer the captured knowledge, this is not an exhaustive list by some ways approaches I’ve taken that have proved successful.
Sometimes called shadowing or pairing. This is when the individual whose experience, you’re capturing works one on one with the person in the organisation, who’s learning it. They observe them going through the functions and activities of their role and learn the ins and outs. This is done over several weeks or months.
So, this may be perhaps a little bit grandiose for some projects but can be useful if it’s a reusable asset. You can consider recording training courses and including interactive elements, such as video or quizzes to demonstrate and simulate specific job functions and tasks.
There’s lots of free or very cost effective tools for doing things like this. You’d be surprised how easy it is to record a video and make things interactive. Usually at little or no cost. As somebody once said, a picture paints a thousand words, so a video probably paints even more.
Centre of excellence
Again, perhaps a bit grand for some. Centres of excellence generally cut across traditional organisational boundaries and include people who do not share the same job function but overlap in a particular area of interest. They’re a kind of go-to group for knowledge in a particular area of expertise.
In whatever written form, this is where we’re trying to codify the knowledge so that someone without the knowledge can follow the steps to achieve the outcome. An idiot’s guide, something that somebody coming in fresh could read and understand. It can be tricky to write the document if you are the person with the knowledge, not to make assumptions. Be mindful of that and test it out on others.
Traditional classroom training where you explain and is usually supported by assessment and written materials.
The final part of any knowledge transfer is the measurement step. It’s only really been successful if the person to whom you are handing over the knowledge believes it’s been successful. There’s no point in just sharing all your knowledge and then walking off into the sunset. You’ve got to make sure that they feel comfortable and confident to pick the thing up that you’ve handed over to them.
Here you evaluate and measure the goals that you set yourself at the beginning to identify any gaps that you’ve left. You can use surveys and tests as a way of measuring. Whether you want to capture the knowledge of outgoing temporary resources, or you need to speed up ramp-up time for new hires in new roles you need to:
- Identify whose knowledge you’re capturing
- What knowledge you need
- Share the knowledge
- Measure the results against some pre-defined goals
- Put simply, plan your knowledge transfer and agree up front your success criteria.
I love a bit of ‘good’ value-adding governance and that’s why Handover should conclude with a formal review meeting where everybody agrees the handover has been successful. Dust off your RACI and make sure that everybody included has been covered off. Also make sure your handover is fully documented, evidenced and stored safely. Record the names of those involved and crucially, get agreement and sign off from all those people who were named and agreed to the handover.
Once you’ve been through that process, you have your decision as to whether it is time to close down the project.
Finally, I know we’re talking about this stuff near the end of the project, but ideally, you will have involved from the start the people that you know you’re going to need to hand over to or will own whatever it is that you’re building.