Do you often hear people asking “how exactly is this done?” or “what’s the next step in this process?” Or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end, fielding a seemingly endless stream of questions about how work gets done in your organisation. If any of this sounds familiar, you may have a knowledge transfer problem, says Time Investment Expert and Best-Selling Author, Kate Christie.
Kate’s speaking at the upcoming Mainstream Conference, a three-day event for Asset, Reliability and Maintenance professionals that celebrates the people, technology and ideas transforming asset management.
Here she shares with us why documenting the accumulated knowledge in your organisation is crucial, how it can boost both productivity and efficiency, and four steps you can take to prevent critical information from walking out your company’s door.
The true cost of IP loss
Do you have a few key players within your company who are the gatekeepers of your knowledge? These “fonts of knowledge” know every step of the process inside out, it feels like they could do it in their sleep.
Your intellectual property (IP) is one of your most valuable assets, and if you haven’t yet documented the knowledge that’s sitting in people’s heads, you’re exposing your organisation to risk.
Risk of rework, risk of duplication of effort, and ultimately the risk of that knowledge one day walking out the door.
Finding a way to get specialist ‘know how’, processes, ideas and information out of people’s heads and onto paper seems like a huge task. It may seem like a task that can wait until all the other pressing stuff has been done. But it can’t wait. Yes, it takes time, but it’s time to see that time as an investment.
Think about your time the way you think about your money: as a limited, precious resource that needs to be invested for the greatest possible return. And if you happen to be the one holding the knowledge, one of the greatest time investments you can make for yourself and the organization is to get that information out of your head and onto paper.
Two rewards of documenting your IP
There are two main benefits to sharing and documenting your IP: productivity and efficiency. And while they may seem to be the same thing, there’s a difference between the two.
- Productivity: When you share your knowledge, it’s now you who owns all the knowledge plus your team of 10. Now you can do the job that you were previously doing without everyone asking you about the process and next steps. The more people who know what you know, the more productive your team will become.
- Efficiency: Once all the information is out of your head and everyone understands it, that’s when you can start – as a team – thinking about ways to do things smarter, faster and better. The more you’re able to dissect and strip steps out, the more efficient the process becomes.
If you want to work smarter, not harder, you need to boost both productivity and efficiency. And documenting your knowledge is the best way to start.
4 simple steps to protect your IP
- Build up a picture of the process
Firstly, you need to identify who has the knowledge. You’ll normally have a process owner – someone who undertakes this process regularly or holds the information about how to do it. It may also involve fringe players who interact in the process in some way. If you have a 10 step process, but different people are involved in different steps, you need to know who all these key players are.
- Map the process end-to-end
Once you’ve identified the process owner and other key players, sit down with them and map out the process end-to-end. The best way to do that is with a lot of butchers paper and post-it notes, and then literally draw out the process. Who’s involved in the inputs? Where are the outputs?
Be prepared for some back and forth – People often think they know the key players, but it’s only once they start mapping the process that they realize there are other people involved. This is an iterative job, you’ll probably have to go backwards and forwards as you build a complete picture.
- Pull the process apart
Get your key players around the table and walk them through the mapped process. Every single step. Dig right into each part of the process, asking “does this work? How could we do it better/faster/differently?” You can then rewrite the process to make it more efficient.
- Train your team on the new process
The last step is training everybody up on the new process. It’s important to remember that this new process isn’t set in concrete. It’s a living document. As people gain more knowledge or have new ideas or introduce new technology, you’ll have to keep updating your document to reflect that.
Start small, but start today
Although documenting your key processes seems like a mammoth task that grows bigger each day we accumulate more knowledge, try not to feel overwhelmed. It’s better to start today than to wait for the day your “font of knowledge” hands in their resignation.
Start with the five most common processes that are impacting the asset management team. You don’t have to document 150 processes. What are the five key processes that are integral to how you work? If you’re only really working on five to six regularly, get the core ones out of the way and then pick off the other ones later.
And remember, this shouldn’t all come down to one person. Capturing your organisation’s IP is a big job and should be shared among your team members. Divide and conquer!
Kate will be running a productivity masterclass at Mainstream Conference on 12-14 May 2021. Join Kate to learn exactly how to get your people working smarter, not harder, to produce more and reduce costs. Get your tickets here.
About the Author
Kate Christie is a Time Investment specialist, Speaker, best-selling author of four books, and a sought after media commentator. As a leading voice on productivity, Kate consults to both big and small business, government departments, C suite executives, and educators on productivity, maximising individual time spend, and combatting organisational drag through smart time investment strategies.