Prepared by Helen Palmer (October 2013)
Someone is leaving! A 'someone' with useful, relevant, maybe even critical knowledge. And you want to ensure that this knowledge isn't lost because it literally is walking out the door. You also want to make the transition for the incoming person effective, even expeditious, as they become the new steward and repository of this valued knowledge-base.
This resource describes the technique of a Knowledge Transfer
Report: a process and a template to utilise in assuring minimal loss of
knowledge to the organisation, and increased return to productivity
with the successor.
The knowledge that is shared via the Knowledge Transfer Report is akin to 'Table of Contents' rather than 'Chapter and Verse'. Based on the logic that it is not practical nor valuable in the long term to be very detailed, the KTR doesn't hold the details of the knowledge rather it is a guide of where to find it - be it a person, a group of people, a document, a collection or a database.
Let's start with the WHY you would do this.
There are outcomes the Organisation can expect from following this process:
- Rich real knowledge is deliberately exposed and shared
- Exiting and on-boarding processes are conducted with a knowledge-value imperative and spirit; and with quicker return to productivity
- Participants in the knowledge exchange are enabled and empowered to be responsible for externalising and internalising knowledge that the Organisation wishes to avoid losing
There are specific outcomes for the
- Supported in reflective practice
- Results of reflective practice enables private and public validation of the role performed
- Knowledge acquired from reflective practice can be used to celebrate their contribution to the organisation, as well as personal content for career management documents, e.g. resume
Outcomes for the Incoming person
- Enfranchised to decide priorities about when and how to receive the knowledge details; they have the big picture as well as sufficient detail to lead/guide their own onboarding activity
- Knowledge transfer doesn't have to be done quickly and at risk of superficiality because other people (i.e. Outgoing person or Manager) have limited attention or capacity for participation
Outcomes for Management:
- Don't have to become the temporary vessel of the handover knowledge in between staff members
- Gain the qualitative means to validate the Outgoing person's contribution
- Gain the qualitative means to review the role and responsibilities (including Position Description and KPIs)
- Gain the means to organise an effective and appropriate on-boarding for Incoming person
- Gain the means to involve other team members in the on-boarding process
- Gain the means to tangibly demonstrate a knowledge-value focus from Management
The WHAT and HOW for achieving these outcomes are:
- A report document composed using a template
- A process of composing the document by the Outgoing person
- A process of using the document by the Incoming person
B1. The Knowledge Transfer Report (KTR) Template
The Template (DOC) contains structure and format to prompt the creator as they organise their thoughts and output.
The introductory content is:
- Date of current report
- Title and brief description of the role which the report addresses
- Any role details (that are not reflected in the PD or differ in reality from the PD), i.e. location in the organisational structure; purpose of the role; history of the role; etc that provide essential context for interpreting the information in rest of the report.
The body of the report is a table with five columns:
- Reference number
- Knowledge Item/Activity - a category or grouping of knowledge;
often related to key activities the person performs
- Person who is a Source of knowledge
- Other sources/artefacts of knowledge plus pending or important Activity notes
- Status of transfer (using whatever values suit the audience - maybe about priorities or states)
Here's an example of a completed report (PDF). Parts have been modified to obscure potentially sensitive details.
B2. The Knowledge Transfer Process: Outgoing Person
- Completes the introductory section and the first three columns of the table as prompted by the headings in the template.
- KTR is created as soon as a person has exiting status. It may be a completely new report created using the Template; or a modification of an existing report that the Outgoing person received when they were the Incoming person.
- Filling in the KTR requires multiple timeslots for memory and conversations to expose the breadth and depth of content to consider including.
- KTR is completed through reflective practice, content analysis, and discussions with/contributions from other team members.
B3. The Knowledge Transfer Process: Incoming Person
- Receives the partially completed report as part of their onboarding activity.
- Reads the report, determines the sequence in which they wish to
acquire the knowledge and begins to engage with sources.
- Modifies the report as they 'receipt' the
knowledge by completing the last column of the table. Suggested values
are 'Completed'; 'Pending' (about to start); 'In progress'; 'To be
WHEN you might use this technique:
- For revealing actual nature of the role rather than espoused
- For retaining knowledge due to parental leave or long service
leave situations, as well as
The KTR document doesn't stand alone. It complements a Position
Description (PD). The KTR is not expected to have a 1-1 relationship
with a PD as it is about 'actual and current' rather than 'espoused and
possible' activities and responsibilities. The KTR may also indicate
knowledge gaps and indicative knowledge-acquisition activities to
include in a Performance or Professional Development Plan.
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This work by RHX Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It can be freely shared with attribution to the creator (RHX Group); it cannot be used for commercial purposes; and it can be modified as long as others share alike.