KM: 5 more ways to extract knowledge from an expert

KM-extraction with othersIt often takes 3-6 months before a successor can fill the vacancy that an expert has left. Vacancies need to be approved, people selected, obligations to the earlier employer fulfilled. The person-to-person knowledge extraction methods described in my previous post are not applicable then.
The following methods are available to capture knowledge without the need to have the successor(s) present, but you will need someone to do the “writing”.
These methods are indirect, because the knowledge is only shared through the knowledge product and there is no option to ask for an explanation or feedback. On the other hand, these products are independent of time and location and they can be re-used and improved upon over time.

  1. Interviews

The following set of questions could be used to structure an interview focused on knowledge:

  • What types of skills are relevant for your work?
  • What would you have liked to been taught when you took this position?
  • What are the main information sources (internal and external) that you use on the job?
  • Who are the people (in or outside of the organization) who provide you with knowledge?
  • What are the key points your successor or the organization needs to know?

The interviewer could write the questions into a top 5 do’s and don’ts, a list of resources, a skill set and training plan for this role, etc.

2. Thinking out loud

The expert is confronted with a situation and is asked to deal with this while talking aloud about all decisions, alternatives, doubts or side steps that come to their mind during the problem solving process. These situations could be ‘real life’ situations or cases that are typical for real situations. The process is normally recorded on video. After analysis this information could be used to create decision trees or protocols.

I am currently practicing this on SharePoint permissions issues, to make my approach more consistent and sharable.

3. After action reviews

After Action Review (AAR) is a method for extracting lessons learned from an unexpected event, usually a problem, defect, recall or similar occasion. It is a professional discussion that has to be planned immediately after the event, amongst people who were involved (i.e. team members). In the discussion four questions are addressed:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What can we learn from this experience?

An AAR is a good example of a simple instrument to share lessons and to make knowledge tangible. It can lead to an adjusted protocol or workflow. I think many of you are using this on a regular basis.

It is not always suited for planned knowledge exchange, in case of a leaving expert. Unless you create the event yourself, of course 🙂

4. Project evaluations

A project evaluation is comparable to an After Action Review but is focused on a complete project, so it has a much larger scope. The objective is to capture all relevant lessons from the people involved, share them amongst the participants and report the most relevant lessons for use within the follow-up project, the project organization or company. The outcome could be a set of do’s and don’ts, a good practice, an improved process or material for a case study.
Like the AAR, these are not always suitable for a leaving expert, but if you have an opportunity to plan the evaluation while the expert is still there, use it!

Project Evaluations have been a large part of my KM-work, and I will post about this later.

 5. Mind mapping

The mind-map in itself is abstract and high-level, but will be sufficient for another expert. (not so much for a more general audience) It is a fast way to capture the essentials when your expert leaves soon.
As discussed earlier the process itself could also be used to create other forms of job aids. For instance one could use mind mapping to identify the index of a manual / hand book or the issues which should be addressed in a training binder, or the disciplines involved in a certain process.

What? No mention of “working out loud”?

You may have missed references to Working Out Loud (in a network) and Blogging. Yes, I definitely consider them means to extract and share knowledge. In fact, I prefer them to the others, because they can be started long before your expert becomes a leaving expert.
But hey, remember I am writing my memoirs from around 2000 here. Working Out Loud and Blogging had not really been invented by then 🙂

What other current knowledge extraction tools have come up in the meantime?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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