Friday 18 January 2013

Four quadrants for a Knowledge Retention Strategy

This matrix is based on a similar diagram in Dave DeLong's excellent book "Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce" (highly recommended for anyone working with Knowledge Retention).

It is a very useful guide for evaluating some of the driving forces behind your Knowledge Retention strategy.

The matrix defines four quadrants, based on how much time the retention and transfer process will take, and the time you have available. They are as follows

Plenty of time available, short time needed to transfer knowledge
This is the ideal place to be, but beware complacency. Too many retention strategies start too late, driven by the imminence of a risk that there is too little time to address. If you are in this quadrant, consider implementing a complete Knowledge Management program, so that knowledge can be spread within a community and gathered (where possible) in documented processes and guidance, and so that the risk of knowledge departing in the head of the holder is much diminished.

Plenty of time available, lots of time needed to transfer knowledge
Here you would employ multiple approaches to retention, as explained in our White Paper on Retention (available here). Approaches will include Capture, Transfer, Buy-back or Buy-In, or elimination of the need for the knowledge.

Short time available, short time needed to transfer knowledge
This is not a bad place to be, so long as you act now. You have the time you need, but plan carefully so you can address transfer of knowledge as well as capture, and so that you prioritise the methods that work the best.

Short time available, lots of time needed to transfer knowledge
Here you are into Triage. You are in the emergency room, desperately trying to staunch the flow of knowledge loss. You can focus, at this point, only on Capture through interviews and debriefs (Transfer will have to wait), and even the Capture must be prioritised based on Urgency and Importance (see blog post on retention prioritisation).

The key message is, make sure you never end up in that top left quadrant!

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