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  • Category: Business
  • Words: 2583
  • Grade: 100
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
It is widely acknowledged that knowledge is a critical asset to organizations. Knowledge transfer is a process that allows contractors and employees to share the knowledge they have gained with other individuals throughout an organization. These employees only temporarily conserve important knowledge that belongs to the enterprise as a whole. That knowledge must be shared or returned to others within the organization or it will be lost. Knowledge transfer also requires a conduit that passes important knowledge, information, and practices from contractors to the organization and from one group of individuals to another within an organization. An effective knowledge-transfer process allows organizations to reposition key employees into new areas, all while maintaining established information and practices. This repositioning becomes much more critical when IT project are outsourced.
One of the critical success factors of outsourcing IT projects is the effective transfer of knowledge between the contractor and client team members. The knowledge transfer will position an INS to where they need to be to operate and maintain the new infrastructure after the ATLAS implementation is completed. It is important to talk at the very beginning about how the how the knowledge will be transferred from the contractor to the INS staff. Contractor is only a temporary resource for INS. INS must retain knowledge from the experience by making provisions for an effective knowledge-transfer process to the internal staff, including IT employees and technology users, before any projects begin. Knowledge transfer objectives must be built into the project plan, such as key technical and user training and assessment to measure achievements, including meetings, documentation, to review what has transpired to date.
One reason that knowledge transfer is so difficult is that risks/issues related to KT have been poorly understood and rarely addressed. In order to have an effective knowledge transfer strategy, INS must address the risks/issues associated with KT and create a supportive climate for transfer. Through positive interactions of the various knowledge management elements, a knowledge-sharing environment that helps to ensure that effective knowledge transfer is created. This requires concerted effort by top management across all aspects and levels of the organization. The appropriate organizational culture, motivation scheme, and measurement system are among the most important enablers of KT. These enablers in turn influence the dissemination of the different types of organizational knowledge as well as the modes through which knowledge is transferred. The cultural factor, and risks and issues with the above stated enablers with recommended mitigations are the subject of the remaining part of the Knowledge Transfer section.
Cultural Factor in Knowledge Transfer:

Culture plays a crucial role in shaping the knowledge sharing efforts of an organization. Top management has to set the right tone and visibly display their commitment to knowledge transfer initiatives through such mechanisms as learning, collaborative culture, and rewards and measurement. In organizations that encourage internal communication by sharing success and failure stories, the implementation of knowledge transfer initiatives will be much easier as compared to those organizations where personal information is always guarded. To create the right climate for creativity and knowledge sharing, management must build trust within the organization. Trust is an essential element for knowledge transfer and is the pre-requisite for open and fair interactions between individuals, which would lead to effective knowledge transfer and assimilation. Organization that promotes "silo" behavior in which individuals, divisions and functions seek to maximize their own local rewards, oftentimes resulting in unacceptable outcomes for the total organization.


Risks/Issues and Mitigations:
Individuals are unwilling to share all the knowledge (Protectionism):

Although protectionism is undertaken to ensure the survival of the organization as well as the positions of the individuals within it, it needs to be kept in check because of the counter productive effect it can have. Consequently, contractors may not want to share all of their knowledge with colleagues so they can maintain it as a kind of power that helps justify their status among colleagues. In working with clients, contractors may want to safeguard some of their knowledge in order to maintain an advantage in relation to those clients as well as other contracting firms. This is a common phenomenon in many organizations. Especially in situations where job security is low knowledge as a power becomes vital for the individual and knowledge might be seen as a kind of insurance against loosing the job.
The success of KT ultimately depends heavily on both an internal and external environment that is conducive to sharing knowledge. If contractors are guarding and hoarding their knowledge to an extreme, the quality of the services the contractor provides to INS will suffer. Moreover, INS may not have crucial knowledge for project management and support and future deployment of IT projects.

Mitigation: It's absolutely critical to foster a collaborative work environment between the contractor and INS team, with shared roles and responsibilities, so that the knowledge-transfer process is embedded throughout INS.
The first major step is to assign key employees to work with the contractor. Contractor should be closely involved in knowledge transfer. This transfer of knowledge will empower INS team members with the skills necessary to participate in project deployment and to perform future support and administration of the new infrastructure. The contractor and the INS team should be organized to work closely on every aspect of the project.
During the formulation of the project deployment work plan, individual tasks should be estimated and developed with the assumption that the consultant and INS team would be working together on most tasks. This interaction between these groups will promote the transfer of knowledge because the INS team members, with the leadership and guidance of the contractor, will perform the bulk of the ATLAS implementation work. INS must also insure that competition and corresponding incentives and rewards will create an environment where knowledge is shared with colleagues.

Lack of motivation to participate in the knowledge sharing process:
        The main reasons for loss of motivation are inadequate recognition, incentives, and rewards for employees' knowledge sharing efforts. Recognition in the form of remuneration and promotion are the most commonly suggested forms of appreciating efforts in enhancing the knowledge asset of the organization. Without adequate motivation, employees would not be encouraged to promote the organizational goal of creating and tapping upon knowledge assets.
        Another reason is that transferring knowledge may be seen as additional work, because of the time for documentation, communication etc. Some employees do not expect reciprocal benefits from transferring their knowledge because they do not believe these benefits or they do not experience it. Further, even if people do expect payback for their contributions the somehow natural question "what's in it for me" is often not clear for employees, who are suffering from a lack of motivation.
        Finally, there is a need that the employees have some self-motivated creativity and some sense of fairness in order to foster knowledge sharing. The participation in knowledge transfer may not be balanced, which may be perceived as being unfair, therefore, the individual's commitment into transferring and sharing knowledge fails.

Mitigation: Employees need incentives to participate in the knowledge sharing process. No matter how hard top management push for knowledge sharing, the employees will not impart their knowledge without visible top management motivation. Mechanisms to enhance motivation include built-in reward schemes in the form of remuneration, future training and development as well as recognition for their willingness to share knowledge. Providing clear performance-based metrics and rewards based on individual and team outputs, and not inputs, would encourage high autonomy and goal congruence. If people are not rewarded for taking the time to learn, share and help one another, knowledge sharing will be limited. INS, in order to encourage knowledge sharing, should include knowledge sharing in its performance appraisal system so that employees' efforts to share are recognized in their career paths and compensation.


Improper selection of methods for Knowledge Transfer:

One of the difficulties faced by organizations is defining the proper transfer media for the types of knowledge (tacit and explicit) embedded in organizations. In other words, the method of transfer used did not reflect the type of knowledge transferred. Tacit knowledge is personalized, making it difficult to formalize and transmit. Hence, tacit knowledge is best shared through highly interactive mechanisms. In contrast, explicit knowledge can be more easily articulated and codified systematically in print or soft copy.
However, it is not always easy to translate what we know to instruction manuals. There may be knowledge we possess that we are unaware of until a situation arises that brings this knowledge onto the surface. This more personal, experiential, context specific and hard to formalize knowledge is tacit knowledge which most people have difficulties articulating or sharing with others as this information reside in their subconscious mind. It is this type of hidden, job-specific knowledge that is extremely valuable to the organization. It is essential that this crucial information be extracted from individuals who possess them and made available to those who require them using the proper Knowledge Transfer media. Organizations inability to choose the right media will make transferring of knowledge from one area to another.

Furthermore, the wrong media selection will create problems, such as lack of accessibility and understanding when this knowledge is referenced for future deployment and/or infrastructure modification by IT staff.

Mitigation: The knowledge that is transferred between the consulting firm and client is a combination of explicit and tacit knowledge and tends to be on the explicit end of the knowledge continuum. The most effective way to transfer explicit knowledge is to use documentation and technology. Technology is the most efficient way to ensure a broad transfer because there is an immediate relationship between how the knowledge is created and how it is transferred. When a deliverable is produced on a computer, there is no need to transform knowledge into another medium to transfer. Explicit knowledge can be transferred through such media as books, manuals, archives, databases, and groupware technology. Tacit knowledge can be transferred through personnel movement and the collaboration of individuals; training, coaching, counseling, modeling, and hands on experience. Since tacit knowledge is difficult to articulate in writing and is acquired through personal experience, training becomes more critical and could take the form of one-on-one mentoring or training people in groups.
INS should make training should be integral component of the knowledge transfer strategy. There should be introductory and advanced training sessions which cover basic concepts and implementation procedures. There should also be technical training that provides INS team members with skills necessary to maintain and support the system technically. In addition to formal training sessions, the INS staff should be engaged in hands-on activities throughout the implementation. This hands-on activity will provide the INS staff with the fundamental knowledge needed to implement, operate, and support the system.
There must also be clear deployment and ATLAS implementation standards, with consistent terminology in naming conventions. Documentation must be through, with comments and descriptions embedded in the deployment manual. That will form a reference point for future deployment and/or infrastructure modification by the client's IT staff.
Inadequate Performance Measurement System:

         The performance management system is an area of concern because most organizations do not yet hold their employees accountable for transferring knowledge. Individuals conducting performance appraisals may talk around KT, but they generally do not evaluate their direct reports based on how well the knowledge is transferred. One potential reason for this is that such evaluations are time-consuming and often challenging. Without the proper measurement system in place, it would be difficult to verify that the knowledge transfer is taking place between the contractor and the INS team and that the INS team members are learning the ATLAS implementation both functionally and technically.

Mitigation: The only way to ensure that KT has taken place successfully is to test for an understanding of the knowledge, or to observe employees application of it on the job. The use of knowledge tests, behavioral observations, and/or multiple-source assessments is time-consuming, but the benefits should outweigh the costs. Evaluating the quality of KT comes down to making it a priority at INS and reflecting this priority within the performance management system.
        INS should establish knowledge transfer assessment process to verify that the transfer is taking place. During the implementation of the infrastructure, periodic self-assessments should be performed by INS staff to evaluate if INS team members understand their functional and technical responsibilities. In addition to self-assessment, the contractor should conduct periodic assessment. These assessments will grade the INS staff member's knowledge of the infrastructure area that they are assigned to. There should also be components on how the transfer of knowledge is going to be measured and what actions are to be taken if a client staff member is identified as needing additional assistance. These measurement criteria will be based on the responses from the two different knowledge transfer assessments.
Additionally, the INS staff not only need to be held accountable for KT in their work performance, they must also be rewarded for it, thereby increasing its quality and reliability in the future. If the reward system is not aligned with performance management, the quality of KT will be diminished and the performance management system will have less of an impact. Contractor and INS personnel should actually set objectives and be evaluated and rewarded based on how well the knowledge is transferred between them.

Loss of key employees:

In the aftermath of any major outsourcing project, organizations should be prepared for the loss of key employees. Often, those assigned to work with contractors are the best and brightest in the organization. They'll feel empowered by the knowledge they've acquired and will realize that their skills can bring premium salaries on the open market. However, organizations must realize that this is risky either way. Keeping talented employees in the dark and not educated is worse because they become dissatisfied and leave.

In addition, the loss of key employees will create knowledge deficiency in managing and maintaining the infrastructure after ATLAS implementation and in deploying future IT projects. In addition, the process of transferring knowledge and the quality of knowledge to the internal staff will be affected.
Mitigation: The consensus is that it's better to empower people and provide them with a stimulating work environment, with plenty of rewards, and hope they'll stay with the organization. The proper capture and storage of knowledge via documentation and/or technology will reduce the risk associated with key employee losses.

The American Management Systems and Department of Transportation cases provide relevant information and are applicable implementation example on how successful Knowledge Management and Transfer initiatives should be conducted. An abstract for the cases are included in the Appendix.
In summary, in order to improve the success of knowledge transfer within the organization, top management policies play an important role. Management's vision, commitment and support aid in the creation of an organizational culture and that is conducive for knowledge transfer. Knowledge sharing must be ingrained as part of the everyday business where employees focus on methods to collaborate. The willingness of people to share, coupled by a sharing organization is one of the key success factors to knowledge management. Management must ensure that the people, processes and technology of the organization are integrated into the project management plan that encourages knowledge transfer. Top management shapes the organizational context in which knowledge transfer takes place and can enhance knowledge sharing through the implementation of a conducive culture, appropriate motivation scheme, and measurement system. Conversely, the organizational context, if shaped inappropriately by the same factors, would create barriers to effective knowledge transfer.
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