June 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm #163641
With the advent of even more personnel draw-downs, buy-outs, and job transfers, how is your section or organization dealing with out-processing of these personnel? Do you have an out-processing guide or checklist? Does it discuss archiving of memo’s, e-mails, digital and hard-copy files? Is there time for interviewing to elicit tacit knowledge? I guess I could transfer it into a blog article but I wanted to see what happens with the “Ask a Question” feature.
June 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm #163655
This is a great question, Mike. Most of what I found in a Google search had military out-processing templates.
A couple other noteworthy discoveries:
June 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm #163653
We have yet to uncover any official out-processing guide or checklist that clearly defines what steps to take when a person leaves an organization (voluntarily or otherwise). Even the link that you sent showed a requirement to have a checklist (OPM-Business Reference Model) yet we were unable to find one.
It is hard to believe that we are letting a wealth of tacit knowledge walk out the door and do not have a process in place to debrief/interview them to ensure that we capture what they know. Think of the hundreds/thousands/millions of dollars/hours/contacts/records/documents that are lost/erased/disgarded without even a single thought about the impact simply because nobody thought through what a proper out-processing checklist would look like.
Thanks again for your time and I hope that we have others join in the discussion.
June 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm #163651
Posting on behalf of Kitty Wooley, Department of Education:
Mike, I’ve had the same feeling – it is hard to believe that so much knowledge appears to be walking out the door. I attribute this partly to the fact that employees are still viewed largely as interchangeable parts whose knowledge is easily replaced (rather than as unique talent whose secret sauce ought be at least partly shared in written or recorded “recipes”) by the groups that are accountable for implementation. Seems like the exit form could be used as a reminder, although the knowledge transfer ought to occur routinely and long before people get to the door. My experience is that it’s inconsistent.
Fyi, a closely related process you may not be seeing is the outbriefings that each agency’s federal records staff conducts with senior officials as they exit. The records officer for each agency is listed on the nara.gov site.
Tacit knowledge seems like a tough nut to crack simply because it is gained through experience and therefore is not easily codified in writing. How do you capture something that’s more art than science, such as the tiny clues that first tell a doctor or an investigator something’s a little off or doesn’t pass the sniff test? I think the medical profession, police, Coast Guard, Military, and NASA have done more work in this area. There are knowledge management conferences that share best practices, but their uptake and implementation varies widely across agencies.
The inconsistency in the transfer of both explicit and tacit knowledge also existed in the major consulting firms whose teams I worked with for a few years, necessitating multiple transfers of the exact same knowledge – that really surprised me. There’s a lot of work to be done in this area. Coordination among offices and across internal silos will be key.
June 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm #163649
I agree, Mike. This a huge problem…especially with the Boomer exodus over the next few years.
But even the newer folks who come and go – you want to know what’s going on there and make some course corrections.
June 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm #163647
Another issue, is the fact that some employees feel that their knowledge is a valuable tool to keep them employed.
When we know we will be having an employee retire, we try to spend as much time as possible gathering information/notes etc. from the employee. Most when they have made the decision to leave have been very helpful in getting the SOP documents up to date, and helping in the transition.
June 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm #163645
The tacit knowledge is a tough nut to crack and there is much inconsistency, but we are attempting to get better at it as time goes on. We are trying to teach them a mindset of the importance of sharing what they know and have learned from experience in order to help others and the organization. A big question is why people don’t share. Jane had a good point that it may be a competition thing for staying employed. They are still living on the premise that “knowledge is power”. As long as I can do it better than the next person, they have to keep me. We believe that “knowledge shared is power”. That helps not only the individual, but the organization as a whole. Gaining buy-in is the key. It’s different than what we were taught.
Mike and I are working on an out processing guide to include an extensive interview process to try and extract some of that tacit knowledge. While a lot of tacit knowledge is hunches and gut feelings that people have learned from experience, we have also been able to find that occasional gold nugget key indicator or process that can help others. We thought by posing the question there might be an out processing checklist out there that has been successful.
Thanks for the insights.
June 18, 2012 at 12:50 am #163643
Larry, this is great; I look forward to hearing more from you guys about it.
It seems unlikely to me that very many employees who’ve been hoarding knowledge have much left that could keep them employed. The half-life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter in many domains, now that more and more people are actively learning and sharing – all around the hoarders, around the clock. I thought it was telling when the Intelligence Community moved from “need to know” to “need to share” a few years ago, per articles in Federal Computer Week. Those who still are not sharing are shooting themselves in the foot.
By the way, Harold Jarche has done extensive work about how the game has changed in the past few years. He has developed a PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) framework that may interest you.
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