How to Support Knowledge Transfer through PMOs
MUSTAFA HAFIZOGLU PMP
SDT Space and Defense Tech.
BURAK ATAGUN PMP
SDT Space and Defense Tech.
Knowledge is being gained through a challenging path and it has great value for a company to survive and be competitive. As projects are completed, knowledge is accumulated and re-usability increases. In turn, the value of knowledge and its transfer also increasingly becomes the main focus of companies.
This paper, analyzes the challenges of managing and transferring knowledge and introduces some relevant key concepts such as data, information, and knowledge. The knowledge transfer life cycle, which is already mentioned in PMI's Pulse of the Profession®: Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Knowledge Transfer will be visited, and based on this cycle the method used in PPMO (project portfolio management office) at SDT (Space and Defense Tech.) will be explained in the Knowledge Transfer Framework in SDT topic with the following three headings: Developing a knowledge-sharing platform, creating knowledge sharing culture, and evaluating knowledge transfer success.
PPMO of SDT has been assigned a new role: knowledge broker. The function and responsibility of this new role, as well as the results and impacts of applying it to projects will be presented.
Keywords: knowledge, PMO, broker, culture, people
Knowledge is becoming an even more powerful element to create unique products and services than ever. Meanwhile, transferring this knowledge within the organization from one project to another, from retiring staff to younger staff, and from outside of the organization to inside of the organization also gets more challenging.
The journey starting with data, then becoming information, and ending with knowledge is costly for any organization. The culture and the people are the two main factors affecting the effectiveness of this journey. The first part of the paper will be explaining these concepts and factors.
The main challenges to manage the knowledge will be explained in the second part of the paper from the perspective of complexity, uncertainty, and culture.
The knowledge transfer life cycle will be visited and Space and Defense Tech.'s (SDT's) approach for each step will be presented. As this approach reveals a framework, the role of “knowledge broker” is to be introduced. The conclusion of the paper analyses the gain and impact of this approach.
DEFINING CONCEPTS AND FACTORS
Data is the structural value of the organization. As data is collected and analyzed, information is created so that decisions can be made. Organizations may have systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) to collect data and may have tools to analyze this data. On the other hand, the challenging part begins with communicating this information at the right time, to the right people, in the right way, and with the right content. That's why project managers spend most of their time by communicating. Effective communication positively affects the success of the project however it's not as effective for the new-starting projects. This is because the information is generally specific to the project itself unless very similar parts are planned to be used again in the coming project. What affects the success of the new-coming project is the experience, wisdom, and insight gained from the previous projects. This is simply called knowledge.
Knowledge can be explicit or tacit. Explicit knowledge is easier to get transferred whereas tacit knowledge is encoded knowledge which needs to be interpreted and is difficult to transfer. Many researchers admitted that tacit knowledge is crucial for building sustainable development (Cavusgil, Calanlone, & Zhao, 2003). Hence this paper especially will focus on the transfer of tacit knowledge, which is learned through collaborative and/or individual experience, and interpretations of events.
Organizational culture and environment, and people are two key factors affecting the success of knowledge transfer. Informal communication level, lack of trust, and turnover rate may shape the culture, resulting in effective or ineffective knowledge transfer. Expectations, happiness, and feeling valuable may determine the people's perspective to knowledge transfer.
Projects increasingly become global in terms of using resources, having customers and suppliers. A greater variety of disciplines is getting involved in the projects and uncertainty level is not decreasing. Hence, increasing complexity and uncertainty are the first two challenges for the knowledge to capture and transfer.
Identifying and capturing knowledge for an employee during operational work or executing a project is not at first priority for this employee most of the time. Achieving his task is more important. Hence organizational culture is another challenge to motivate these employees to get involved in knowledge transfer cycles.
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER FRAMEWORK IN SDT
PMI's Pulse of the Profession®: Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Knowledge Transfer defines the steps of the knowledge transfer life cycle as Identifying, Capturing, Sharing, Applying, and Assessing. PPMO is assigned for the knowledge transfer in SDT by the executive management, and PPMO has used these steps to develop its own knowledge transfer structure as summarized in Exhibit 1.
Exhibit 1: The Knowledge Transfer Structure of SDT.
PPMO first established a categorization of knowledge before the Identifying step as follows: Knowledge created outside the company, knowledge accumulated in the reusability database, knowledge not known formally but informally within the company. This categorization helps determine the essential knowledge to transfer and an assessment phase specific to each project is defined before a project is initiated in order to elaborate this categorization.
PPMO identifies knowledge brokers (KBs), who are responsible to specify critical knowledge to be transferred. The main characteristics of knowledge brokers can be stated as follows:
- KB is not a role in the hierarchy of the organization
- KBs can be project managers, systems engineers, or any other key team members.
- PPMO is responsible to identify and lead KBs
- KBs are expected to smooth out the barriers to access knowledge
- KBs are expected to utilize the knowledge-sharing platform effectively
- KBs are expected to help creating knowledge-sharing culture
PPMO guides knowledge brokers on how to identify and capture the knowledge at different phases of the project. This guidance is also defined in the project governance management plan of each project.
PPMO has established a knowledge-sharing platform called a knowledge bank and knowledge brokers are key members of this platform and all the employees have access to this platform. The structure of this platform is designed so that there is an active link between ongoing projects and this platform. For example, a lessons-learned knowledge of a project is designed such that lessons learned are accumulated throughout the project life cycle and each lessons learned is linked to an action item, which is also put in the knowledge bank. The aim of generating an action item is to analyze the effects of that lessons-learned to the organization and other projects and put this knowledge to the knowledge bank.
Knowledge brokers are the key persons to make sharing a habit within the organization. People need a trustworthy environment as well as expect to have a benefit so that they share knowledge. PPMO is expected to suggest ways to create such a knowledge sharing culture.
To be able to measure knowledge transfer success is also crucial for a sustainable knowledge sharing culture. PPMO defines metrics and makes analysis according to the collected data and presents benefits. Examples for metrics are as follows: reusability level, project success rates, interaction rate between the knowledge bank and the people, number of knowledge brokers, and so forth.
Gaining knowledge, identifying specific knowledge, capturing it, sharing and assessing the value of this captured knowledge…each step is very challenging and each step is related with people and culture which makes this challenge even more difficult to achieve. On the other hand if an organization succeeds in transferring the right valuable knowledge then it will gain an incredible competitive advantage. SDT is aware of this benefit and the structure it has established already started to show the gains.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mustafa Hafizoglu, PMP, has 17 years of experience in hardware and software development projects, especially on aerospace and defense industry. He established the PMO at SDT Space and Defense Tech and has been managing the PMO for the last two years. Mustafa is cofounder of the PMI Turkey Chapter and was Board Member between 2007 and 2012. He had seven years of volunteer experience at PMI and the PMI Turkey Chapter in various areas, from certification to standards. His last volunteer experience is being core team member for PMI's Governance of Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: A Practice Guide. Mustafa Hafizoglu is teaching project management courses at various universities. He is coauthor of the book Project Management Analytical Approaches. He's also a speaker at PMI global congresses and various international seminars.
Burak Atagun has nine years of project management experience at two different firms in the aerospace and defense industry. He is managing hardware and software development projects as well as serial production projects. He has many years of experience in budgeting, pricing, and financial control and is very experienced in transferring of knowledge since he deals with projects that use the accumulated knowledge of previously completed projects.
He is a Project Management Professional (PMP)®certification holder since September 2014 and he is a member of Turkey PMI Chapter since June 2014.
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Cavusgil S.T., &; Calantone R.,J., &Zhao Y., (2003). Tacit knowledge transfer and firm innovation capability.The Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 18(1), 6–21.
Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®guide) – Fifth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.
Project Management Institute. (2015).Pulse of the profession®: Capturing the value of project management through knowledge transfer. Newtown Square, PA: Author.
© 2016, Mustafa Hafizoglu and Burak Atagun
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain