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Knowledge Continuity: Strategies, Approach & Tools

In the current business environment one of the foremost challenges facing executives is loss of mission-critical knowledge in both explicit and tacit forms! Generally, this condition is an outcome of anticipated and unanticipated employee termination, resignation, retirement, and transfer. With a significant proportion of business executives in agreement with the truism that ‘knowledge is a key differentiator’ it is noteworthy that a large percentage of the corporate world has not yet adopting formal strategies to arrest knowledge loss.

When employees move on, they remove their (tacit) knowledge with them. As a consequence, important discoveries and insights vanish, and the organization’s ability to act quickly and intelligently is encumbered. As knowledge losses mount, corporate learning typically stalls, and organizational forgetting begins! With high turnover, an enterprise may know less today than it did yesterday!

The key questions at the heart of the knowledge loss discussion include:

  • What constitutes mission-critical knowledge that should be preserved?
  • Where is the targeted mission-critical knowledge and is accessible and transferable?
  • What decisions and action are required to stem the loss of valuable and in many cases irreplaceable knowledge?
  • How can the organization successfully obtain, transfer, and  stockpile the lessons learned and best practices from their most experienced and valuable workers to a knowledge-centric database and application before employees depart or retire?

Knowledge Management & Knowledge Continuity

Where Knowledge Management embraces capturing and sharing know-how within the enterprise’s business activities and processes, Knowledge Continuity focuses on successfully harvesting and transferring knowledge from departing employees to their successors for ongoing use and enrichment.

The goal of knowledge continuity is to preserve the vital knowledge that sustains the business and that would otherwise be lost with departing employees. Ultimately, a knowledge continuity program becomes a vital component of the organization’s strategic framework and a critical success factor for attaining or maintaining leadership within its targeted markets.

Borrowing & Continuity

Knowledge, for all of its value, is an anomalous asset. It is highly perishable, increases with transfer and sharing, and is cumulative. Most importantly, tacit knowledge is borrowed temporarily from employees during their employment years and returned to the organization on departure. Certainly, explicit knowledge remains within the organization but that knowledge is valueless if employees do not have a tacit understanding of its context and intended use and application.

Knowledge Compass Approach

The Knowledge Compass Knowledge Continuity Program approach is outlined below:

1. Conduct an assessment and SWOT analysis of the organization’s current knowledge handling environment, including:

  • Corporate business, technology and continuity strategies and plans.
  • Explicit and tacit knowledge required to sustain employee roles and their associated responsibilities.
  • Current techniques, methods, and solutions to support knowledge harvesting and transfer. (formal and informal)

2. Conduct a Gap Analysis of current knowledge continuity situation with a best practice knowledge continuity program

3. Develop Knowledge Continuity Strategy, (in alignment with corporate business and technology strategies) including:

  • Techniques to harvest knowledge from incumbent employees on a non-invasive basis.
  • Methods to transfer knowledge to successor employees.
  • Technology solution(s) to facilitate the knowledge continuity process

4. Create Executive Report highlighting: knowledge continuity strategy and key decisions     and actions required to successfully implement a formal Knowledge Continuity Program.

 The Bottom Line

A Knowledge Continuity Program creates a powerful advantage for organizations who seek a competitor advantage. Key benefits include:

  • Safeguards corporate mission-critical knowledge from loss
  • Provides a structured framework and system to store, update, access, enrich, and transfer to employees to support their work activities
  • Speeds ramp-up of new hires, moving them rapidly up their learning curves and making them more productive sooner
  • Enables new hires to better understand their roles, responsibilities and knowledge-centric requirements from the wisdom of predecessors and current co-workers
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