Do you struggle with sharing information between team members? It’s too common to hear phrases like:
· If I’d known that I would have done it differently
· I didn’t know we had a template for that
· It would have saved a lot of time if I’d known…
· There’s already a process for…
There is a lot of knowledge in people’s heads. Getting it out is the hard part, and making sure that it gets into the heads of people who need to know it. At the right time. And then making sure it isn’t forgotten again.
Knowledge sharing can supercharge your productivity because it saves time and streamlines processes. It stops people doing rework. It makes people happier because they don’t have to do tasks that don’t feel rewarding and the sharing itself can be a team building activity.
What’s not to like?
Here are 5 ways that you can get knowledge sharing to happen. Some are easy. Some are harder to do, but they’ll all contribute to getting information out of heads and into a format that others can benefit from.
1. Use Document Repositories
Putting all your written knowledge in one searchable place is the easiest thing to do to get started sharing what you know. Whether you use a wiki, a collaboration tool or a shared network drive is up to you. But get the data off laptops and tablets and into an area where you can all search.
It doesn’t have to be just documents either. Store the output from your mindmapping software, images and video too.
2. Lessons Learned Meetings
I’m a huge fan of the lessons learned meeting, and as a vehicle for information sharing it’s a good start. The meeting itself is a useful exercise and the people who take part will benefit from going over what worked and what didn’t. But the real value is afterwards – making sure that the knowledge gleaned sticks around and saves time on future projects for more people.
Your mindmapping tools can be a great help here too: document the output in an easy-to-understand visual way. You can even print them out and put them on the walls in the project management office as a reminder of key lessons for future projects.
Ideally you’ll use a database of some kind or a tool like a wiki to record lessons learned, and then create a culture of actually checking it prior to starting a new project. Embedding this kind of knowledge sharing will take time!
3. Peer Training
When you’ve got someone in the team who knows a lot about something, you can pair them up with someone who doesn’t know very much about that topic for some training. Training can be on anything, from how to build a particular software feature to dealing with spreadsheets or understanding a process.
The idea is that you are spreading the knowledge in the team. You might call this cross-skilling or creating a multi-disciplinary team. You remove the reliance on experts in one area and spread the skills across a number of individuals. This is particularly useful for operational teams or project teams where you are going to be working together for a long period of time.
When more people understand a process or can do a task, you are less reliant on a single individual who then becomes a single point of failure. With the knowledge in one person’s head you are stuck when they go on holiday or worse – quit.
Factor in some cross-training for the team as soon as it’s appropriate on your projects.
4. Team Meetings
Team meetings also provide an opportunity for a knowledge share. Just ask everyone if they have anything to pass on at each meeting. We do this regularly, it takes minutes but it’s very useful. Team members can pass on interesting facts about their project or other projects that they have heard about, or ask questions.
Make it a part of the regular agenda and get people used to talking about what they know.
Mentoring is different from training. It’s a more informal approach to passing on knowledge and it tends to be as the mentee needs it, rather than a structured program.
Allocate an experienced person to mentor a less experienced person with the express intent of passing on knowledge. This could be about processes or how the company works, or some specific industry area that they have deep knowledge of.
Mentoring tends to take place during informal (or more formal, on some occasions) chats where the two participants share what they know and discuss sticky questions. It’s important to get the relationship right, so if your two individuals don’t hit it off, don’t worry. Stop and pair them up with someone else. Mentoring can be a highly personal experience and it works best when the working relationship is successful – this is often to do with personality so it doesn’t reflect badly on either party if they want to stop and work with someone else.
What has been your most effective technique for sharing knowledge with your team? Let us know in the comments section.