Project Management

Are You Doing Enough to Encourage Knowledge Sharing?

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By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

Sharing knowledge has so many benefits: It’s at the heart of business continuity. It boosts team morale. It creates a culture of continued learning. It connects remote employees to crucial information. It encourages the flow of ideas and can even challenge the status quo.

From my point of view, it’s part of being a project professional. As a leader, you can set the right example and get team members in the mindset of knowledge sharing. If it’s presented as a norm, the team follow your lead and carry this behavior to other projects and teams within and outside of the organization.

So why isn’t it always practiced? Because it’s difficult.

A few years ago, I joined a new technical team, replacing a contractor. During our handover period, we met regularly to discuss the transition, but he didn’t keep much documentation and his explanations weren’t clear to me. I had difficulties grasping the big picture. At the same time, I met the new manager regularly. But he was a true servant leader—trusting his team members—and so he didn’t have the details I needed. And the rest of the team seemed preoccupied by their headphones. (I’ve gained a reputation for asking many questions, so I thought they were afraid of investing too much time in sharing information with me.)

Throughout my 20-year career, I experienced some reluctant behaviors. People don’t directly say “no,” but they demur through:

  • Unavailability
  • Answers given only to what’s asked—they don’t go beyond the questions or raise warnings
  • Rushed explanations

What’s crucial is to get team members to officially agree that they will contribute to sharing/explaining knowledge. But how do you secure that buy-in?

I’ve found one-on-one meetings are the best strategy for reluctant colleagues. Being visual and sharing information live—away from the computer screen—also helps people focus.

A few years ago, I needed an expert’s help on a new service set to launch. As I knew he balked at sharing knowledge, I organized a face-to-face meeting with him. I arrived one hour before the meeting and wrote the different topics and the questions on a big whiteboard to ensure we stayed on task and maintained clarity.

Another thing to keep in mind: Subject matter experts often have scarce availability, so be sure to clarify your intention from the outset of the conversation and highlight the benefits of knowledge sharing.

Your goal isn’t to step on anyone’s toes, rather to get information for a given purpose. And you have to create a safe environment to foster that type of collaboration. As a project professional, you’re responsible for devising strategies to get the information and keep it flowing across silos. There’s no silver bullet, but efforts pay off in the long term.

How do you foster knowledge sharing within your project team?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: April 02, 2021 12:20 PM | Permalink

Comments (18)

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Yasmina

I totally agree with you. One to one meetings do get the best results but also in today’s digital world, there are so many online collaboration tools like Miro, that will also help in knowledge sharing.

RK

Hi Rami, thank you for your feedback. Yes tools can help if people have the right mindset.

Dear Yasmina
Very interesting the theme that brought to our reflection and discussion
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
Information is different from knowledge
It really is a big challenge to get team members to share tacit knowledge

thank you for sharing, an impressive topic, i am totally agree on "There’s no silver bullet, but efforts pay off in the long term."

i am sharing the knowledge by taking one to one meeting, team meetings, putting my team in all our conversation.

Dear Yasmina,
I couldn't agree more when you say "Sharing knowledge has so many benefits: It’s at the heart of business continuity"

There certainly is no one way that works for everyone but leading by example and having a set time and space set aside for this knowledge sharing collaboration is one way to set that stage.

It doesn't always work and honestly can be exhausting when it feels like you are doing the sharing and talking for what should be from a group but stick with it.

Many people can be threatened by sharing their knowledge thinking that they will be less valuable but the opposite is true and it also allows you to be able to delegate more and have time to focus on really important tasks.

Yasmina,

Great topic. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "What’s crucial is to get team members to officially agree that they will contribute to sharing/explaining knowledge". I have a similiar experience as yours where the SME would not share knowledge and it was difficult to keep them on task when we had a walk-through of the site. After using such tools as you did, I was able to get valuable knowledge out of them and complete the tasks at hand.

I can understand the hesitation in not sharing their knowledge by either their fear of not being valuable or that they might feel they're presence is not needed anymore. I have been in those situations and understand completely. However, it is important to make every stakeholder feel and have value in each project

Nice topic and succinctly written. Great share, Yasmina.
There is an underlying gap here, and that is fundamental knowledge management within an organization. We should be developing a culture and behavior around sharing information to build knowledge across the firm. As Luis mentioned, how do we get from tacit to explicit? How do we build a foundation where the information is centralized and available? How can we get individuals to contribute to the knowledge base, and how can we make it so others can find it?

This certainly does not minimize the power of 1:1 sharing, however, it does lessen the weight of it from both parties.

Thank you Yasmina .
Very interesting topic.

To be sustainable and disseminated all over the organization, knowledge sharing needs to be connected to proper IT tools; otherwise, they just remain among the people involved but cannot be taken as inputs by the whole company because they are simply unknown.

Dear Luis thank you so much for your feedback. Stay safe, Yasmina

Dear Ahmad, thank you for explaining how you share knowledge! We all have to be active in that field. Stay safe, Yasmina

Dear Natasha, thank you for your insights and I cannot agree more. Stay safe, Yasmina

Dear Kwiyuh thank you for taking time to read my blog post. Stay safe, Yasmina

Dear Thomas, thank you for sharing your experience! Like you, I faced the same obstacle several times. It is also part of our job as a project manager. Stay safe! Yasmina

Dear Drew, thank you for your insights..there is a second part coming about the tools and knowledge base. Knowledge sharing is a hard topic but during this pandemic, it is even more important. Stay safe! Yasmina

Dear Mohammed, thank you so much for your feedback. Stay safe, Yasmina

Dear Manuel, thank you for your thoughts. A second blog post about tools is coming...Stay safe, Yasmina

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