Use Agile Knowledge Management Practices To Combat Knowledge Loss In The Great Resignation

It’s the fourth quarter, your team is down three points, and there’s less than two minutes to go. A victory is in the hands of the quarterback and coach, who have to execute a hurry-up offense to go the length of the field and score the go-ahead touchdown. Great American football teams prepare for this scenario. They have a predefined offensive plan to execute with precision. A poorly managed clock and the wrong play-calling will end with fans dejected and the game in the loss column. Today, operational leaders are facing a similar situation, and you need a game plan to execute.

We’re all reading the headlines on “the great resignation.” But what can you do as an IT operations professional when faced with key resources leaving and very little time to combat the loss of knowledge? Now is not the time to think about a long-term knowledge management strategy; instead, you need an agile knowledge management practice, and you need it now. A two-week notification from a key team member requires a two-minute-drill-like strategy.

Entering The Transfer Portal: Resignations Are At An All-Time High

In American college football, players who feel undervalued or do not get the proper playing time are electing to enter the transfer portal. Long gone are the days when freshman athletes would wait for their turn to demonstrate their elite skills. For example, if a quarterback is on the second or third team, entering the transfer portal may provide an opportunity to play on the first team at another school.

Athletes are not the only ones entering the transfer portal. Based on research across multiple research firms, resignations are at an all-time high, and this will continue into 2022. It appears that the reasons behind it, however, vary depending on the research. What we do know is that people are leaving. Various sources point to the following defections:

  • Boomers. While Boomers have been threatening to retire for almost a decade, the pandemic has thrust those plans into action, as Boomers have decided enough is enough and are now ready to leave the workforce.
  • Work/life balance. Many workers have experienced a different way of working that allows them to enjoy their lives while taking away many of the undesirable aspects of work: long commutes, poor work/life balance, and missing out on family activities.
  • Better pay/benefits. Employers faced with high numbers of staff resignations are forced to provide better pay and benefits to attract new employees. Employees are vacating jobs with low pay and minimal benefits for better jobs and better pay.

Simplify Your Playbook For Success: Launch An Agile KM Initiative

Qualifying for the playoffs is a long-term strategy that requires the development of playbooks, drafting the right players, hiring the right coaching staff, and executing a week-to-week strategy against each of your opponents. But what happens when you are in the game, your long-term strategy isn’t working, you’re behind, time is running out, and you need a victory? Execute the two-minute drill.

The time to develop a long-term knowledge management (KM) strategy has passed. While your organization does need a long-term strategy, the need for retention of knowledge is immediate and requires an agile approach that you can execute now. Retention strategies need to be agile, immediate, focus less on structured knowledge, and utilize unstructured knowledge approaches.

What is clear is that spending time trying to document key information before the departure of staff will take too long and not provide the breadth of knowledge that is required. Instead, operations leaders should engage with agile methods to capture knowledge to address the immediate need. Using video and audio recording systems, the organization should instead focus on capturing the stories of departing staff members.

Storytelling is an established communication technique that can be “flipped” in this scenario. Conduct a formal interview with the departing staff member using a set of investigative questions that seek to identify key points of information that need to be retained. The goal is to have your departing staff members tell their “stories” — the projects they are working on, the challenges they are facing in their role, the vision for the future, their key sources of information, and relationships that drive success — using remote collaboration tools to document this using both video and transcription services.

When All Else Fails, Try A Hail Mary: Conduct A Knowledge Audit

Even a well-executed two-minute offense can leave a team with little hope to win the game. With only a few seconds left on the clock and fourth down, it all comes down to the final play: one more chance to try to score, the “Hail Mary” pass.

If you have been caught off guard by a recent resignation and have only a few days to transfer key knowledge assets, your best play is a knowledge audit. Identify where all critical documents are stored (locally/cloud-based), what sources of knowledge are used to support decisions, and who the primary trusted advisors are for getting information after a departure. Using a software-as-a-service management solution, consider automating the retention of critical knowledge assets across all enterprise applications as part of an offboarding process.

After The Game Is Over, It’s Time To Build A Better Game Plan: Innovate Your Knowledge Management Practice

After a game, win or lose, it is the right time to assess both game and season strategies. Good coaches make midseason changes based upon who is available, their skill levels, and injury reports. Even when key players are out for the season, the mentality is “next player up.” Coaches have to plan and strategize how they will handle midseason injuries and have identified key resources that they develop over the season who can then step in and take over positions.

Once your key resource has left, you can either promote from within or recruit for a suitable alternative — but no matter how you fill the void, it is an opportunity for someone new to come into the position and innovate and excel. As you are thinking about who will make the best replacement, keep your eye on your long-term knowledge management strategy. Recruit individuals who are knowledge management practitioners — who see the value in retaining knowledge, sharing and collaborating freely, and furthering the success of the knowledge management practice. While, certainly, technical skills are required, changing the culture so that you mitigate future risk begins with setting expectations as employees join the organization.

Winning Means Innovation: Empower A New Working Model

Holding onto long-established offensive and defensive schemes often results in losing teams. When a football team fires its coach and general manager, it is hoping to bring in fresh ideas and a winning strategy.

If your knowledge management practice failed to retain strategic knowledge assets during the great resignation, then it is time to innovate and build something that works. Evaluate the success of your current strategy and focus on integrating a modern approach that mitigates the risk of lost organizational knowledge.

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