Novatek's Economic Gardening team recently referred to the Project Management Institute's (PMI) annual study on successful company strategy to reaffirm the importance of knowledge transfer in organizational practices. The study is done each year to provide evidence that successful strategies lead to successful projects and programs. The 2015 study reported that "high-performing organizations are significantly more likely to focus on talent management, establishing ongoing training, and formal, effective knowledge transfer."
According to PMI, the 2015 results showed that a low percentage of organizations are highly effective with knowledge transfer practices. Although it is a critical organizational competence, it is often undervalued. "For knowledge transfer to become routine but effective, it must be culturally imbedded," states PMI.
Lockheed Martin is a company that recognized their need for knowledge transfer and its positive impact on team performance through collaboration, innovation, and coaching. In their Space Systems department specifically, the company's early start with knowledge transfer ensured that every employee had the tools needed to succeed.
Case Study: Lockheed Martin, Identifying mentoring needs
Ten years ago, Lockheed Martin Space Systems instituted a project to identify and assess employees’ skills to prepare for future voids in the company’s intellectual capabilities. “We realized we had senior people who were very technically expert in our complex systems, were known to our customers, and would be eligible to retire in a few years,” recalls Tory Bruno, president of Lockheed Martin’s strategic and missile defense systems unit. “We needed to identify this knowledge and find ways to successfully transfer it.”
Bruno’s unit began by identifying critical skills needed by the business, and going through a detailed interview process to understand what it was that made certain employees experts. “We sought to learn what they did in their careers and learned on the job, and then turned that into what we call a knowledge checklist,” Bruno says.
Armed with this data, Lockheed Martin now teaches advanced skills to less-experienced employees through its Critical Skills Management Program. The program pairs up a junior employee with an expert, who becomes his or her mentor. A member of the management team, typically the manager of the junior employee, is part of the equation, planning and arranging assignments for the protégé to absorb the required knowledge. This three-way partnership is not without teeth, Bruno notes. “The respective tasks in the process become part of each employee’s performance review,” he explains. “At the end of the process, we have a graduation ceremony, where the protégé is certified as an expert by the mentor and manager.”
Corey Leal, director of finance in Bruno’s operating unit, says the program has significant financial value. “Assuring that our technical employees have the expertise needed to support our core competencies means less reliance on subcontractors and, ultimately, greater profitability for our business,” he says.
Successful knowledge transfer efforts aren’t executed in the 3 months prior to a key employee’s retirement. As Lockheed Martin Space Systems demonstrates, to truly retain knowledge and develop the next generation of experts, programs must be deliberate, incentivized, and measured.
Is your department only a few years away from losing a key employee? To determine what type of knowledge transfer programs can work best for your company...