If you work in higher ed, you have people who have become fixtures. They roll up all of the tiny details, the business processes and procedures, into their heads like a Katamari.
Once it’s all there, that person is your knowledge base, your Karamari forever (excuse the bad joke, folks). He or she attends all the key meetings. Every person or process involves at least one part where this person is consulted for how “we” do things. And new hires must spend a significant portion of their time volleying back and forth between attempting to to something semi-productive and tracking this person down.
What can you do ensure that all that internal knowledge gets transferred out of a person and into something that can be shared? Here are a few strategies I have used:
Your knowledge base should have a granular permissions structure.
Information may need to be opened or restricted based on group membership. At the topmost level, make it public. It is much easier to take something public and lock it down than vice versa. (People are very nervous about sharing; don’t create additional barriers to doing so.)
Give the masses of subject matter experts authoring access.
Having content vetted by a small group of people creates bottlenecks. A knowledge base is different from a formal Web presence. If you feel tempted to restrict authorship to an elite group, instead consider having this group review and edit the published contributions of everyone else. You will get much more done, and you can still have quality content.
Delegate the documentation of internal knowledge to new hires.
Every time a new hire tracks this person down for an answer, the new hire should be told to document it. (Hooray for newbie-hazing!) But seriously, this tactic does serve several purposes:
- The person who actually possess all the internal knowledge is going to be too busy to actually sit down and do the documentation himself/herself.
- Having to relay that information to each new hire one-on-one costs the billable time of two employees: the new hire and the expert. If the new hire, documents this information, it will become available for all future hires so that the cost of relaying the information is only one new hire each time.
- The expert is able to check how well the new hire understood the information given to him/her by reviewing what was documented and making additional changes or comments.
Lead people to the knowledge base.
When getting people to adopt a new knowledge base, you may have to get them to accept change by leading them there gradually:
- When they ask you a question that is not in there, add it. If/when it is in there, send them the link. It is a subtle way of showing them that the answers can be found in the new knowledge base.
- When they get used to going there, you can try answering questions by explaining to them how you looked up the answers in the knowledge based in addition to giving the URLs. Teach them your search strategies along with giving them the answers.
- Eventually, like training wheels on a bicycle, you can take away the URLs and let them navigate the knowledge base on their own.
Photo Credit: Little Prince and Katamari by bdjsb7