Categories: Career Help, Careers, Collaboration, Communication, Continuous Learning, Human Aspects of PM, Leadership, Mentoring, SelfLeadership, Sharing Knowledge, Talent Management
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:
- 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?