How many times have you encountered an issue that required an Subject Matter Expert (SME) assistance? Many I would presume! But what if the SME was on leave or busy or was simply not available to answer your question? You wish the info that you needed was documented somewhere so that you can look it up yourself!
The software industry is full of such examples.
Why is it so hard for the SME to document their knowledge so that others can benefit from it?
Is it because of insecurity or is it because they are unwilling to share their hard-earned knowledge so easily with others? Maybe they want others to travel the same rocky road to gain the knowledge?
The answer is probably both.
It is human nature to feel insecure in the face of competition. In the era of hire and fire, we are afraid about job security. You would have read numerous articles that people are working longer hours so that their bosses view them as hard-working. Longer hours doesn’t mean better productivity. But that is how human brain works!
So under such perception, sharing knowledge means that the other person will quickly learn what took you years! And who knows, the apprentice may then force his/her way into the boss’s good books and you end up losing your job as the apprentice takes over your position. Who knows?
Similarly, it took you years of effort to be where you are now with your SME knowledge. Are you to share that knowledge with someone so easily? Despite what your bosses say, you are reluctant. You feel you will lose something valuable if you were to share the knowledge.
So taking the human emotion aside, what could the organization do to make this knowledge sharing as part of the organization culture?
- Enforce the knowledge sharing as part of a project delivery – this will allow SME to capture the knowledge that was used during the project delivery. If a similar project was initiated later on, then these earlier artefacts can be used to quickly bring someone up to speed.
- Give credit to the person sharing the knowledge. If they create a video library, ensure that they are credited as the author of that video
- Empower them to shape up the knowledge sharing framework. Make them feel like by developing these knowledge articles or videos, they would be making a difference to the organization.
- Get upper management to acknowledge their contribution. This is the key to getting knowledge sharing within the organization. The SME needs to be feel appreciated and valued. Recognition among peers is the most important thing that energizes a staff.
- Ensure that knowledge articles or videos are written/developed in such a way that it starts with basic knowledge: why, what and how. Then the area is covered by additional complex functionalities. I find video libraries with voice over as the most important medium for knowledge sharing.