Wednesday, 25 January 2012
What does your company do with the Best Experts?
In some organisations, the best experts - the most experienced and most knowledgeable staff - are put full-time on the top projects. The theory is that the highest priority project should have the best people working on it.
To me, that's a waste of knowledge. It would be like finding your best general, and putting them in a tank in the toughest battle, on the theory that "they have the most knowledge, let them fight the hardest fight".
As Knowledge Management professionals, we know that there are other ways to get knowledge into a project than by employing the people full-time, and we also know that the more knowledge a person holds, the more she or he is of value to ALL projects. There comes a time when an expert transitions from being a Doer, to being a Teacher; from being an individual who applies their knowledge to do a good job, to an individual who shares their knowledge, and develops the knowledge of others, so that everyone in the organisation can do a better job.
You see this model in many companies. In BP, the most experienced staff become Network Leaders, who have joint accountability for maintaining the knowledge base, and the knowledge assets, and for building the learning networks and communities of practice (they also consult to the most important projects, on a part time basis). ConocoPhillips have a similar model. In SABMiller, experts from all operating hubs work within “Centers of excellence” who maintain company standards and Best Practice. In Shell, the role of global consultant is the pinnacle of the technical ladder, where the expert consults to many projects, and plays a key role in the Communities of Practice and in developing content for the Shell Wiki.
In each of these companies, the expert has a far greater impact on developing the capability of the organisation, than if they were full-time in an all-consuming project on the far side of the world.
If you Can, Do. If you Know, Teach.