More and more project teams are outsourcing specific tasks as well as general support activities to third-party providers. This arrangement can come about in any number of ways, including as a response to necessary staffing reductions, as a way to address concerns about expenditure levels, or in the pursuit of gaining better negotiating power. No matter how or why Project Teams outsource work, this shift within the project management team has the potential to significantly impact how well valuable project knowledge is transferred between team members.
As the Project Team’s leadership team looks for ways to ensure their PMP®s are able to continue nurturing the well of knowledge held by the group, a number of approaches may prove helpful. Rarely will a single strategy meet all the needs within a project team, though—a combination of methods used together will typically be more effective.
Improve your documentation. If your team is worried about transferring knowledge, it’s crucial they’re able to take good advantage of whatever information they already have. Comprehensive documentation is key, and will give Project Team members a link to the knowledge the team has gathered. Keep in mind that that creating good documentation takes time, and it can’t be a one-off endeavor. Project management knowledge is always evolving—the team must be diligent in keeping its documentation up to date.
Coupled with creating good documentation is ensuring the team has a workable way to mine it for the details they need, when they need them. Consider if adding a document management system or robust intranet platform would help the Project Team build and leverage its knowledge base.
Look to other departments for help. This is a particularly useful strategy when a team member has exited with little notice. Coworkers in other groups can be very helpful in providing those in the Project Team with detailed knowledge about internal practices as well as organizational quirks. The professionals in the accounting group, for example, can help your team understand the nuances of the budget approval process and offer tips on navigating mid-year reviews and other activities that may be politically charged or challenging in other ways.
Rehire former employees. Depending on the situation, it may be feasible to contract with past team members for limited training sessions. Often considered more appropriate when downsizing activities have resulted in the termination of key employees, this approach may allow the Project Team to harvest hard-won knowledge even after it’s left the organization. Though this option will likely receive approval only in specific situations and with the support of a well-crafted business case, it’s something your team should keep in mind whenever possible.
Thoroughly mine the backgrounds of new hires. Many PMP®s have pieces of knowledge or experiences that may be unique or that aren’t considered of primary importance in the role they’re now filling in your organization. That doesn’t make their insight any less valuable, but it may mean it hasn’t been well communicated. Make it a common practice to dig deep into what sort of projects new hires worked on in the past, even if it isn’t relevant to the activities the Project Team is focused on right now. Add that information to the team’s central knowledge base so it can be tapped when needed.
Vendors have knowledge, too. Most Project Teams have a core group of vendors they work with frequently, and who are very familiar with past projects. These partners hold a tremendous amount of knowledge. Rather than relying on the opportunity to pick vendors’ brains as needed, a better solution is to schedule regular review sessions where knowledge about successes and challenges is shared across the team.