Saturday, August 18, 2007

Digging for Knowledge

Have you ever tried to write down absolutely everything you know about a topic that you are supposed to be the “expert” on?

That is what 'knowledge transfer' is all about.

Somehow you have to take the knowledge in your head, and put it in someone else’s.

Please let me express to you that I do not like the word ‘expert’. It sounds vain and pompous. I especially dislike – with a high degree of contempt – self-proclaimed experts.

I have no problem with terms like ‘most experienced’.

Better ask Fred, he’s had the most experience with that”.

If you say it that way, I still have some leeway for uncertainty. But if you say “Better ask Fred, he is the expert” – well, I had better damned well know the answer off the top of my head, or my credibility is shot.

I do not keep knowledge at the top of my head, nor the tip of my tongue. I write stuff down. I write it down and I put it someplace else. Someplace that I can hopefully remember so I can retrieve it later when I need it. I do this so that I can remember the important things, like my phone number, where I live and the names of my wife and two daughters.

I hate acronyms.

Some would say “why? Acronyms makes it so much easier to write or speak about”. That would be true, but please stop and think of the acronyms in your life, and how many you don’t know or can’t remember what they stand for.

Make a list, go ahead.

Beside the acronym, write down what it means. Then go Google them and see how close you are.

IT roles like mine are inundated with acronyms. You name the technology, and it has an acronym associated with it. Then you have the business industry that your IT position serves. In my case it is health benefits. They have their own set of acronyms. And you - Mister IT smarty-pants – had better understand what those business people are talking about.

But I digress. I usually do.

Right now the acronym I am most sick of is KT. KT stands for knowledge transfer.

Knowledge transfer is the art of taking the knowledge in your head, and put it in someone else’s. Am I repeating myself?

So I have been writing down everything I know about what I am the the most experienced in. Then I have been standing up in front of a group of people who are going to do my job, and try to explain to them everything in my head.

So far it has been going well.

But I wish I could perform the Vulcan Mind-meld instead.

Instead, I have been standing at the front of the room, my laptop connected to a projector which displays PowerPoint presentation slides about all the stuff in my head. I turn and I read the slide projected on the wall, and I read to them what was in my head at the time I wrote the slide.

And they write stuff down. They are writing down a lot of stuff. When they fill up a page, they flip to blank pages and they keep writing. They are writing down the stuff that is in my head. They are writing it down so that they can put it someplace when they need to retrieve it. This way, they can remember the important stuff.

Like their phone number, their address, the names of their family members.

After this is completed, sometime this fall, the tables will turn on me. For a lot of that important stuff that I projected on the wall will be useless to me. For I will move on to another role.

To ramp up for this new role, someone will have to provide me with knowledge transfer. They will write down all the stuff in their head, and then shove it into mine. I will write it down – and put it someplace so that I can retrieve it later.

The entire process of dumping the stuff in my head out for others to write down, and then writing down what others know so that I can fill my head with it again will take approximately a year I estimate.

When I was in boot-camp for the Coast Guard, I was made to dig a hole on one side of the yard, and use it to fill a hole on the other side. Then re-dig the hole to fill the first hole again.

This seems strikingly familiar.

I am very anxious to move into my new role.

I have half of the hole dug in my head already.


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