Knowledge is Power

It’s the moment every organization dreads. A project or program leader is moving on, and there’s a mad scramble to fill the hole in the org chart.

To help ease those inevitable talent transitions — and keep the leadership pipeline full — smart organizations know they must find ways to share knowledge across the enterprise.

Three out of four high-performing organizations have a formal knowledge transfer process, according to PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the Profession®: Capturing the Value of Project Management. The payoff? Seventy percent of projects run by organizations with a formal knowledge transfer process meet original goals and business intent, versus only 57 percent of projects run by organizations that lack this formal process.

Through communication, collaboration and coaching, organizations can transfer knowledge and build a strong talent base.

Room to Grow

Working at GE Oil & Gas in Doha, Qatar, Mahmoud Jarrar saw the power of knowledge transfer in action after the operations manager left the organization.

With the knowledge he gained through a mentoring program, Mr. Jarrar was prepared to immediately step in. He filled the gap for nearly a year, reporting financials, tracking operations, and managing orders and deliveries. And during that time, the organization met goals and increased business orders, says Mr. Jarrar, now a process specialist at oil and gas logistics company Milaha in Doha.

“The mentoring program empowered their employees to do more and deliver,” he says.

Learning from the Best

Effective knowledge transfer relies on help from above. According to Rally the Talent to Win: Transforming Strategy into Reality, a 2014 Economist Intelligence Unit research program sponsored by PMI, 63 percent of senior-level executives are heavily involved with coaching and mentoring top talent within the organization.

Learning from senior leaders begins as soon as an employee is hired at Intuit, San Diego, California, USA. Career development programs include Lunch with Leaders and Next Generation Network, which allows practitioners to pick the brains of subject experts and execs during panel discussions or Q&A sessions.

For other organizations, tools of the trade include formal training, case studies, white papers, articles and videos, according to Pulse data.

Share and save

Formally sharing knowledge with team members from the start not only prepares them to lead projects, but can help foster organizational loyalty long after they hit the ground running, says Nikki Meyer, program manager, HCA Healthcare, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

At HCA, even newly hired project managers with plenty of project leadership experience can be assigned training “buddies” to facilitate their transition within the organization, she says. Before they are assigned projects, new project managers can shadow veteran employees as time permits. Doing so builds a relationship with the organization.

“If organizations do not devote some level of training and mentoring on their specific processes at least, you may find your project managers looking elsewhere,” Ms. Meyer says. “Organizations can lose good people very easily if they do not feel they are part of the team.”

Using knowledge transfer helps organizations improve project performance. But it also builds a talent pipeline and gives project practitioners the skills and confidence they need to step up and deliver results.

“Employee empowerment keeps the train going,” Mr. Jarrar says.