Should Organizations Penalize Those Who Are Not Willing to Share Knowledge?

One of the key challenges in delivering projects, and in particular engineering and construction projects the massive volume of knowledge that gets wasted by failing to formally document this knowledge to enable other project team members to use and take advantage of this knowledge. It is no wonder that the engineering and construction industry is considered one of the least efficient industries compared to others where knowledge is better captured.

This lack of knowledge sharing represents a major threat to the engineering and construction industry specially when we see the increased trend of experienced resources drain who have this knowledge due to retirement, being laid off due to business slowdown, relocating to other companies and locations among many others. Nevertheless, the most challenging of all is the unwillingness of many experienced resources and other team members to formally share their projects’ knowledge. This could be attributed to a number of reasons but for many, knowledge represents power and for them they are not willing to give this power easily fearing that it could impact their value to the organization. For them, this represents the value that they have earned over the many years and where their current position and financial compensation is directly linked to.

There are three types of knowledge sharing, active, passive and reactive. The active knowledge sharing is the knowledge the will be formally captured in predefined form templates to create the organization’s knowledge management repository. It should be noted that 70% of knowledge comes when the details of any specific knowledge have been written down rather than kept in our minds. The passive knowledge sharing is the knowledge that can be extracted from the different project management processes when they are captured in pre-defined form templates. Examples of those could include request for information (RFI), meeting minutes, change orders, daily reports, request for inspection, non-compliance requests, punch lists among many others.

The third type of knowledge share is the reactive knowledge share. This the knowledge share where the knowledge from the project team members is extracted using questionnaires and different type of interviews to capture this knowledge.

Active Knowledge Sharing

To enforce active knowledge sharing, project intensive organizations should include this requirement as part of the project team member appraisal. Similar to other key performance indicators (KPI), the organization need to set the minimum number of knowledge items to be shared by each team member per period. To ensure the quality of the shared knowledge, predefined form templates should be used by all team members regardless what project they are involved with or what stage the project is at. This is required to formalize this knowledge sharing process.

The Knowledge Share form shown below which was created using PMWeb Project Management Information System is an example of what knowledge details need to be captured. The header of the form provides the general attributes like any other project communication record like project, issuer, date and status. In addition, it details the project phase, work category, specification reference and others. The form could have included fields for the project management knowledge area, project management process and the many other attributes that will enable having more better structured shared knowledge. The custom form builder enables creating the different type of fields and attributes needed for this form.

As for the share knowledge input text, the form has allowed two fields. The first is to have the knowledge in English and the second is the translation of the knowledge in Arabic. This will enable capturing the knowledge in the two most common used languages in the Middle East and GCC region as well as increase the value of this captured knowledge by enabling those who can communicate in only one of the two languages to take advantage of that knowledge.

The shared knowledge could also require attaching supportive documents such as pictures, videos, drawings, specifications and other type of project documents and records. Those will be the documents that will be uploaded and stored on PMWeb document management repository for which they can be accessed and viewed whenever there is a need. In addition, hyperlinks to related websites can be also added to provide the most of the shared knowledge.

To ensure the credibility and value of the shared knowledge, all those knowledge sharing forms need to be formally submitted to the designated Knowledge Management Officer (KMO) so he or she can review and approve the shared knowledge before it can be shared with others. The PMWeb workflow module will be used to define those workflow steps and for which the KMO will be given the privileges to invite and involve other project, PMO, organization or third party team members to review and analyze the shared knowledge.

The captured and approved shared knowledge can then be accessed using Business Intelligence software applications where not only it will be used to streamline the accessing for this knowledge but also to provide trends analysis and other type of analysis that could be of interest to the organization’s team members. In addition, most BI applications allow the users to have a structured query language where relevant data will be filtered and displayed based on what was requested.

The KMO and the knowledge management team can be used this captured knowledge to improve the capturing of projects data, creating checklists for the different project management processes, develop training material to educate new project team members on those best practices among others.

Passive Knowledge Sharing

Passive knowledge is the knowledge that can be extracted from the different project management processes that are being used on the project. Of course, this need having a Project Management Information System that enforces project stakeholders and team members in provide the needed data for each process in the needed format. That is why many organizations who use PMWeb do not limit the use of PMWeb on the many out-of-the-box form templates that covers most of the project management processes, but use the custom form builder to create form templates to capture the data from other specific processes that they might have.

An example of passive knowledge sharing is the use of the Request for Information (RFI) and Change Order processes. If we take each one of those two processes on its own, the knowledge captured in their pre-defined forms can provide the KMO and the KM team with massive valuable information on the reasons for why RFIs and Change Orders were issues, their impact on the project objectives, who have issued them, how long it took to close them, which part of the project did they affect, which project scope of work they were related to, among many others.

Nevertheless, the additional knowledge that could be extracted from having those two processes on the same platform and database, is the correlation analysis between RFIs and Change Orders. For example, in PMWeb, the option to generate a Change Order from an RFI is available by default. In other words, the link between those two processes is readily available. Of course, links to other PMWeb records can be created.

This knowledge could be of great value to the KMO as it will help the actual causes that have resulted in issuing the RFI and which have eventually resulted in the change order. Those causes could be attributed to incomplete project design documents, old technical specification, unforeseen site conditions, among others. Identifying those causes, the KMO and KM team can come with recommendations and actions that need to be implemented on all other projects to reduce the negative impacts of those causes.

Reactive Knowledge Sharing

To enable reactive knowledge sharing, the KMO or the Project Management Office (PMO) who are responsible for capturing projects knowledge needs to assign team members who will become responsible for performing those interviews. Predefined document templates need to be created to identify the questions those surveys will include and the possible answers for each question. There could be templates to capture knowledge on the performance of contractors, quality management practices, health, safety and environment (HSE) practices, project schedule review and analysis, project team performance appraisal among others. Templates could also include questionnaires to capture the feedback of each project team member on his or her views on how the project is performing and any challenges they need to report.

The document template below is a sample of a template that could be used to assess the performance of each contractor or vendor working on the project. The questions are drafted to identify the type of knowledge that the organization wants to capture to help them to better select the contractors and suppliers who could be considered for future projects. Similar to all other forms in PMWeb, attachments to further support that data captured can be attached to the form. In addition, the form could be assigned a workflow process to formalize the steps for submitting, reviewing, analyzing and storing this knowledge.

The captured data will become available for the KMO and KM team to analyze and identify the newly captured knowledge. For example, the data captured in the staff appraisal forms can help in identifying the knowledge and skills of the project team members. This will enable the organization not only to identify the training courses that the team members should attend to improve their current skills but also who could be the best project team that could be assigned on certain projects. The dashboard shown below is an example on how Business Intelligence (BI) tools have used the data captured in PMWeb to analyze the performance of the project team.

In summary, organizations who understands the value that capturing, documenting and sharing their projects delivery knowledge will bring to their business, needs to formalize their knowledge related processes. There are two type of processes, active and passive knowledge sharing processes. As for the passive knowledge sharing processes, organizations need to enforce the use of project management information systems which will insure that the particulars of each process are captured in the right format, by the right team member at the right time. As for active knowledge sharing, similarly there should be a predefined process for sharing that knowledge but more important it should part of each team member appraisal.

So Maybe the question that organizations should ask, for those project team members who are not willing to share their knowledge, is it better for our organization to do without them?