The Maeslantbarrier in The Netherlands is a unique piece of water engineering. It is a storm barrier of epic proportions and inventive technology. It has been created between 1991 and 1997.
People who have designed, built and maintained it are nearing their retirement, and it is essential that the knowledge of this artefact does not get lost. Therefore the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the owner of this construction, organizes regular training sessions for everyone who works with the barrier. And because they have found that learning-on-the-job is more effective for such a unique piece of engineering, they also work according to the age-old master-and-apprentice model to exchange information.
The article that I am citing above (in Dutch) also has a scary statistic (by Paul van den Brink, KM specialist)
90-95 % of companies in the Netherlands do not take any action to keep knowledge and expertise in the company.
And that while the population of The Netherlands is ageing, and many people are facing retirement, or being laid off due to reorganizations or bankruptcies.
I think we have all complained that nowadays it takes so long before a vacancy has been filled. Having 3-6 months between departure and arrival is not only annoying for colleagues; it also means that there is no time at all for knowledge exchange and that new employees start at level zero – again. Everything that the old employee has learned in their job, is gone – at least for the organization.
Of course you can sit back and think: “Oh well, I will wait until we have a company strategy on knowledge, or until we have figured out what the company knowledge is that may not be lost.” Or “Yeah right, we do not have Watson or any other machine learning software, so I can not start.”
Think again. There is knowledge involved in your job. It may not be the strategic company knowledge, such as “developing and marketing new coffee products for consumers and foodservice”, but you have specific knowledge of the products and processes in your role. It would be a waste of time and effort if colleagues can not use it now, or find it after you have left.
You can also do Knowledge Management on a smaller scale than Company-wide. I think it will even be easier if you can just focus on your own knowledge and your needs. Check out the knowledge products I shared earlier – and my example of the Tips & Tricks list.
Writing these posts is a little harder for me that writing about SharePoint stuff or videos. But with the frightening statistics above (and I expect they will be similar in other Western countries), I have promised myself to finish the rest of my “KM Memoirs” as soon as possible.
So, if you promise to think and act about collecting and sharing the knowledge of your job NOW, I promise I will help you with some simple and easy tools!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net