Experience + Education + Time + Reflection = Knowledge: The Knowledge Transfer Process

The Rule of 7-P’s can be expressed two different ways, that then communicate two significantly different outcomes; yet, both expressions are intertwined and cannot be separately employed.

Proper Prior Planning Produces Potentially Positive Performance

or

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Purely Poor Performance

When discussing the Rule of 7-P’s and knowledge transfer, both methods of communicating the rule remains continuously applicable. For example, a toddler takes a table knife and starts to insert the table knife into an electric outlet. The adults, knowing that a discussion about electricity, the potential electricity has for causing burns, shocks, and fires will be lost on the toddler; thus the adult simply takes the knife, shouts NO!, and maybe smacks the child. What knowledge was transferred; the lack of a plan in this knowledge transfer opportunity has resulted in poor performance. However, the argument remains, what will a toddler learn without experiential knowledge? For a potentially positive knowledge transfer process, why not create a plan and turn a negative into a positive?

Providing the next variable in knowledge transfer, KISS, or “Keeping (IT) Supremely Simple.” The “IT” here can be the plan needing to be simple, the words employed, the method of knowledge transfer, etc.; all of these are variables in the knowledge transfer process. The principle is the requirement to transfer knowledge simply. Whether the audience is a toddler, a teenager, or an adult, the principle remains, keep (IT) supremely simple. Now, I have been reprimanded for insisting that adults need simple knowledge transfer; I continue to disagree. How many adults enter a training opportunity with nothing else on their minds than the coming learning? How many adults have shut down their lives for the training to enable full concentration for knowledge transfer success? Hence the need to communicate simply even for adults.

Agency; in all the world, there is no variable more powerful. Agency, as defined by Aristotle, is an agent in action. The agent is a body with the power to choose, the action is choosing, and natural consequences follow. Agency is a binary solution, act or do not act. Both choices possess consequences that will be valued by the individual through choice, who will then follow the logic of past choices and valuations into a determined destiny.

Communication, or knowledge transfer, provides a sender and a receiver in interaction the opportunity to act and will share both individual and combined natural consequences. Consider the toddler and the adult; the adult wants to keep the toddler safe. The toddler wants to discover. Connected the toddler and the adult share an experience (table knife and an electric outlet) with consequences, and individually, they will enjoy or suffer consequences as well as collectively they will have consequences. A consequence is neutral, the value of the consequence e.g., good or bad, positive or negative, relies upon the individual to choose, or exercise agency as an empowered agent. Every agent possessing the power to choose will exercise that power, and cannot escape the consequence.

Self-determination is often confused with agency, even sometimes used synonymously for agency, but self-determination is not agency. Keeping these two items, separate and distinct, remains imperative. Self-determination is defined as “the process by which a person controls their own life.” Thus, agency is a binary solution and not a process. Self-determination is a process, or a logical movement from one instance of an agent acting to another in a continuous chain of events, or cycles, of perception, choosing, evaluating, consequence, leading back to a new choice opportunity. Knowledge transfer relies upon self-determination as the sender cannot dictate how the knowledge sent will be employed. Only the receiver can determine the usefulness, the value, and the application. To blame the sender for knowledge transfer failing is mentally disingenuous at best, since the sender and the receiver share conjoined responsibility for the knowledge transfer process, the consequences of agentic action, and individual effects that are stemming from the knowledge transfer interaction.

Sine Qua Non a Latin phrase meaning “an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.” Trust is the Sine Qua Non in knowledge transfer opportunities. Trust is always playing a role, but the sender will generally not know if they are a trusted source. Trust remains an essential ingredient in all knowledge transfer opportunities. With trust between agents, knowledge transfer occurs almost effortlessly. Without trust between agents, knowledge is always doubted, efforts to transfer knowledge are more difficult, and the consequences of the lack of trust might not be realized immediately. Trust is based upon experience, time, and contains many different degrees, or shades. For example, the toddler might not convey they trust the adult, but the toddler will remember their interactions with the adult, and these remembered interactions build over time and experiences. One day that toddler will be able to vocalize trust, and the adult in that situation will then be faced with knowledge for good or ill.

Realtors have a saying, a rule, an aphorism, “Location, Location, Location.” Knowledge transfer is also contingent upon location, many times, this variable is conveyed as the environment. Regardless, where knowledge is transferred remains an aspect of prior planning that determines positive or poor performance. Just as realtors often overlook location, the knowledge transfer process, without a plan, will stumble over the location. Consider the following, while serving in the US Navy, an officer was observed attempting to transfer knowledge while a sailor used a pneumatic needle gun to chip paint. Chipping paint on steel requires ear protection, many times there is a desire for dual-ear protection, earplugs, and a set of over the ear, foam insulated, muffs. The officer was then observed holding the sailor accountable for the knowledge transferred, to the sailor’s detriment. Other times this same officer was observed transferring knowledge in engine spaces, with running machinery in the background; with the same result, the sailor was held accountable for not receiving the knowledge the officer was sending. Time after time, the same lesson is available, proper prior planning produces potentially positive performance, provided the plan understands location, location, location.

Knowledge transfer relies upon A Priori and A Posteriori knowledge to understand and onboard what is being provided. Humans are creatures that build, and experience builds knowledge, and education combined with experience, builds knowledge. The valuation of developed knowledge is personally known and evaluated continuously then compared with present situations and available experiential knowledge. The human brain will always be trying and testing A Posteriori knowledge, A Priori knowledge, against explicit, tacit, procedural, descriptive/declarative knowledge bases to build new knowledge from current experience. With this retesting will come the natural consequence of new valuations, where something highly valued suddenly becomes less valued or even rejected outright. Thus, the oft-repeated need for proper prior planning in transferring knowledge; without a plan, or with a poor plan, potentially positive performance is not obtainable.

Murphy’s Law states, “No plan survives first contact intact.” Some people take this law and then refuse to plan. Other people take this law and plan redundancies Ad Infinitum, but never carry out a single plan. The most effective people take this law, realize the potential, and will create plans flexible enough to accommodate reality, while confidently moving forward with the plan to achieve the desired end goal. An agent in action will choose who they are where planning is concerned, and the resulting consequences thus create societies, learners, communities, and other collections of empowered agents that are drawn to those with similar choice and valuation cycles — providing the variable in knowledge transfer second to agency, peers.

A peer group, as mentioned, forms around a group of agents that follow similar thought patterns and valuation cycles. For example, smokers know the dangers of smoking, but continue to smoke, and quitting requires choosing a different peer group before the smoker can quit. While other smokers surround the smoker, quitting is either a “pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken,” or an unfulfilled wish, due to the peers chosen with which to associate. The choice and perceived valuation cycle prevent peer reevaluation; thus, the smoker will continue to smoke. Knowledge transfer is dependent upon peer influence. Consider, if the sender is not trusted by one member of the peer group, the entire peer group will be influenced, and knowledge transfer will suffer accordingly. Even if the individual has a different evaluation of the sender through experience.

Consider the following example, while serving in the US Navy, an officer was charged to teach a class on handgun safety. The officer began the class by pointing a handgun at the audience. The officer was trying to teach a basic rule of handgun safety: “if you do not personally know a handgun is loaded, all handguns are presumed loaded.” However, this lesson failed horribly! Everyone in the class had a different perception of the lesson and related their experience to their peers. Thus, trust for this officer plummeted and interfered with every lesson this officer taught throughout his career. The officer was a subject matter expert, had tremendous insight, and could impact people for good. This single incident followed him from ship-to-ship, and doubt in their capability to teach was sown, all through peer-to-peer communication, and the influence of peer groups.

The importance of understanding the Rule of 7-P’s, KISS, agency, trust, location/environment, Murphy’s Laws, peer groups, and self-determination, forms foundational knowledge needed to build a training program, improve teaching and training, and enhance the process of knowledge transfer. Thus, it behooves all agents to have this information to enhance learning and improve teaching performance. The cycle is clear, “we teach that we may learn more perfectly, so we may teach more correctly, and then learn more perfectly.”

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Shifting The Employment Paradigm – Or, Hastening The Trend to Stop Knowledge Loss

Several mainstream academic and corporate researchers are reporting a trend in employment, shifting from an employer-employee relationship with fixed costs to a non-traditional or contractor based workforce, where costs rise and fall as needed to fill business needs.  American Express recently announced a huge layoff; other business organizations are also scaling back employee hours or executing mass layoffs.  Since the New Year (2013), several business organizations have announced reductions, under Federal Government pressure, making full-time employees become part-time employees with less than 20 hours a week scheduled.  Before implementing mass layoffs and the inherent drain of knowledge resulting from those layoffs, business leaders would do well to research shifting from employees to knowledge-based contractors, which has proven profitable and unencumbering to the ebb and flow of transition and to the uninterrupted, well-ordered processes of success as well as solving the unintentional consequences of unresolved patterns of cost escalating loss.

Consider the costs, not simply dollars and cents, but intellectual cost, productivity costs, time lost, and more that is now draining the resources of these organizations.  The fixed employee costs are too egregious to be borne, but the need for the work of the employee remains.  The fix to the problem continues to lie in disconnecting the employee and connecting that same worker to the organizational brand as an independent contractor.

For example, Company A employs 200 people.  Federal Government Regulations declare that the new fixed income costs have risen to $10,000 per employee, totaling $2 million annually.  Company B is a direct competitor to Company A and employs the same number of people, but 175 of these employees are contractors with various length contracts for specific work projects, hour of the day specified, and wages.  Company B, according to the IRS, employs only 25 employees at the same cost per employee of $10,000 totaling $250,000.  The advantages are obvious, realistic examples abound, and the process is slowly advancing.  It is past time to hasten this work.

Consider the loss of intellectual power during a mass layoff.  This is a potential (Blue) cost and the impact is measured in final (Green) cost outlays.  John Q. Worker, has been with Company A for three years and has moved from production labor to supervisor, mainly by his competency in keeping production running smoothly.  John and his senior team members have been groomed as subject matter experts and are recognized for their professionalism and work knowledge.  John’s team is laid off along with several lower ranking members of other teams.  The knowledge drain in production creates a debt into which training, time, and other company resources must be poured to recover the loss of knowledge when John and his team were laid off.  In a down economy, how does Company A recoup the loss of knowledge?  What happens if John and his senior team members, who all work well together, approach Company B and offer their knowledge for sale?

This single cost reflects a vast amount of organizational resources that will require double the cost outlay to replace.  How is the investment doubled? John was just one person; however, the doubling of the investment comes from the immediate lack of knowledge coupled with the need to train a replacement on the job.  Layoffs only work in boosting short-term profit margins but remain a permanent lose-lose situation for the business organizations due to the intellectual drain, the doubling of costs to replace and restructure, and the need for business to continue.  Needs of business do not go away when employees are laid off.  Yet, how many of these now doubled costs would be an issue if John was changed simply from an employee to an intellectual worker, in fact, all those who were laid off.  John and his team would remain in their current roles performing their skills and talents with freedom and independence, and the company would gain a powerful resource for improving production as well as taking a straight loss and turning it into a permanent gain.

This is the power of the independent contractor model.  Layoffs are straight loss scenarios: employers lose, employees lose, communities lose, states lose, and ultimately the entire society loses.  Jobs lost in New York make for tougher times in California.  Collins (2001) wrote, in his book ‘Good to Great,’ about this cycle of layoffs and the destruction caused.  If American Business cannot or will not choose a different model to embrace, other than employee/employer, the American Experiment is doomed to fail; doomed because the same problems inherent in ‘Right to Control’ are the root causes to runaway government power grabs, compensatory spending problems, and theft of public resources for personal gain.

Other thoughts from Collins (2001) include the following gems for consideration, regardless of your level of leadership.

“Mergers and acquisitions play virtually no role in igniting transformation…”  This means that changing organizations through merger or acquisition does not correct the core problems in an organization.

“Technology … has virtually nothing to do with igniting transformation…”  Adopting new technology does not change core problems.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness … is largely a matter of CONSCIOUS CHOICE.”  [Emphasis mine]

The final quote from Collins (2001) is the perfect thought:  choose greatness, free the employee to become an independent contractor.  This brings about the final conclusion discovered by Collins (2001): “… Good to great companies paid scant attention to managing change, motivating people, or creating alignment…”  Collins (2001) declares this is possible because the workers were empowered with the dual culture of entrepreneurship and discipline.  Other authors and business researchers are drawing the same conclusions.  When the employee is empowered, truly empowered, the organizational leaders are free to drive the company because the people problem is solved and the freedom to use their skills and talents as a contractor perfects the processes and procedures.

Shift the paradigm, free the employee, and watch the business become great.

How does Company B from our example manage all the contracts?  The HR team contracts two-contract lawyers for contract design.  One full-time IT person engineers the contract website where the prospective contractor creates a contract using options personally motivating to the contractor.  Upon legal endorsement of the validity of the newly created contract, the head of the HR Team, working in concert with the head of the department, makes operational changes to meet essential requirements, which are presented to the potential new contractor for negotiation and agreement.  Upon reaching an initial agreement, the document goes back to HR Legal Team for final review and approval.  Once completed, the new contractor signs with the department head and work begins.

References

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great why some companies make the leap… and others don’t. (1st ed.). New York, New York: HarperCollins.

© 2013 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Employee Organization – Or “A Referendum on Knowing Societ[ies]”

Tribus (n.d.) discusses organizational change, the need for education, and the power of learning.  In ‘Changing the Corporate Culture: Some Rules and Tools,’ a principle relating to unintended consequences is discussed herein.  The principle is the difference between a ‘Learning Society’ and a ‘Knowing Society’ as discussed by Tribus (n.d.).  With the ‘Right to Control’ firmly embedded in an employer’s pocket of control, the unintended consequence is that every employee becomes a heavily guarded fortress of knowledge as a means to survive in a corporate organization.  Every employee must ‘know’ his job or risk losing that job.  This mindset has lead to terms like, ‘Group Think,’ ‘Knowledge Management,’ etc., and creates the legal arguments and problems swirling around ‘Intellectual Property.’

One term not found in Tribus (n.d.) is that which I have labeled as ‘Keystone Mentality.’  A keystone is found in architecture when building an arch.  The keystone is the center stone in an arch that provides the balance upon which the entire arch hinges.  A ‘Keystone Mentality’ is found in every business in the world where a single employee hoards knowledge, considers hoarding knowledge appropriate to ensure job security, and never gets sick or takes vacation, as they (the Keystone Mentality) erroneously perceive that the business will suddenly stop if they take a break.  ‘Keystone Mentalities’ gossip, rumormonger, betray fellow employees, and generally take ‘any means necessary’ to protect their position from intruders.  The ‘Keystone Mentality’ is the hallmark of a ‘Knowing Society’ created through employee churn, developed in the fires of adversity, and held in positions of power by those who refuse to learn because there is a ‘Keystone Mentality’ to take the slack or rely upon.  Quid pro quo is the least of the unethical behavior allowed when managers rely upon a ‘Keystone Mentality.’

Another aspect of a ‘Knowing Society’ is nobody learns anything.  Since the expectation is that everyone already knows, why share knowledge.  Where is the incentive to not be a ‘Keystone Mentality?’  Where is the incentive that encourages a person to bend, to be humble, teachable, or to learn?  Learning requires humility, compassion, empathy, and leadership of people.  A consequence from many “Knowing Societ[ies]” not mentioned by Tribus (n.d.) is that ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ build psychopaths, sycophants, and pathological liars.  ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ are managed by people, who, if they do not know something, bluff, ‘fake it until they make it,’ and the cloning of Neanderthals becomes accepted practice, this is often referred to as, ‘good corporate politics.’

Young students are instructed to never stop learning.  Why do graduates of high school, college, advanced degrees in business choose to stop learning every facet of the organization to which they are employed; the answer lies in the ‘Right to Control’ and the demands for ‘Knowing Societ[ies] in the places of employment.  Corporate training for a new position mostly entails discovering whom to turn to for answers.  It becomes a game of who do you know, that I know, that they do not know, so we can look good for another boss, who is pulling the same game in the chess match of corporate politics.  The larger the organization, the more frustrating this problem becomes.  Small business and even some mid-size businesses have one or two people, who have been with the company since inception, know everybody, have their fingers in all the pies, and feel all the pulses. Gossip from these people can make and break careers.  Being anathema to change, ‘Keystone Mentalities’ will always act first from a position of corporate survival, then from a position of power to receive quid pro quo, and then, maybe, for the good of the company.  The issues caused by and demonstrated as a result of current principles utilized by ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ are unquestionably clear.

‘Learning Societ[ies]’ require leaders who know people and are humble enough to teach and be taught.  Learning remains a two-way street with responsibility and accountability flowing from teacher to student and back to teacher in a never-ending circle.  Leaders in a ‘Learning Society’ will ask questions, employees will ask question, the answers come from other leaders and employees, knowledge is shared so everyone wins.  The organizational health is sacrosanct, and when everyone wins, everyone prospers.

Shifting the employment paradigm requires organizations to embrace learning, encourage experimenting, and demand accountability for new learning being applied.  Until the ‘Right to Control’ resides in the individual’s power and not in the organization’s, a true shift from a ‘Knowing Society’ cannot occur.  Some organizations provide lip service to learning being key and crucial to success.  The Federal Government does lip service to reduce spending with the same affect.  Until the individual is free, accountability and responsibility in the workplace, in a society of professionals, and in our communities will continue to diminish.  These principles are not new; Tribus (n.d.) speaks of them, talks about them, and has been insisting this is the path to tread.  Nothing changes until the basic equation shifts.

The time is now for business leaders to encourage employees to become knowledge workers, contractors, and freelance consultants.  The time is now to begin and to embrace the path outlined by Tribus (n.d.); shift the paradigm in employment; and change, lead, and re-discover the power of education.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Additional Reading:

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf