In the next month a manager with the most know-how in our team is about to leave.
The person filling her shoes (for now, at least) obviously wants to do some handover.
The person leaving said that most of her stuff is in the Document Management System (DMS).
Besides talking to her as much as possible before she leaves, all we are left with is documents, and some emails that have been uploaded to the DMS.
Emails are good for more informal communications, the workings out, the process…you get to know how things work and get done by reading email chains, as opposed to the final deliverable in the DMS.
But it is an effort to upload all your emails, people usually don’t do it.
Emails are usually about processes and tasks, which is great to get to know, “how things are done round here”, what it takes, etc…but they are not always explicitly about know-how, ideas, what’s on your mind, musings, etc…
The other point is that her work will be scattered all over the place in the DMS.
So can you really get to know a person, “their way of operating”, “how they think” by reading her documents in the DMS?
Now imagine if she used enterprise social networking, communities, blogs, forums, wikis, etc…
We could know her social graph…instantly the new worker is connected.
Her contributions would be scattered, but accessible from her dashboard.
From her blog and forums we get to know her informal and casual way, we get a feel for the person (even if you may not have met her).
What I’m saying is if she participated in communities we could get to know her character and personality…her thinking, ideas, her wavelength, her direction.
You could read a manual on how to fix something, but that’s it, you can fix that one thing. Spending time and living and breathing someone’s “way” and slowly absorbing the knowledge is more empowering as you build a general skill that may enable you to tackle many problem situations. We want to be able to have situation awareness, where we have the skills to tackle an unexpected task (we might surprise ourselves).
Anyway the point of this post is the difference in know-how left behind in a DMS vs a Community.
Firstly we are considered lucky if the person leaves behind stuff in the DMS, that is stuff they have created during their employment, like deliverables and various emails.
Secondly, if they try to write handover documents to sum up their know-how, it ain’t gonna work as you can’t really capture that well in hindsight, and we need shared context…this post points to Dave Snowden’s heuristic’s.
The DMS rarely has know-how (tacit), you can’t get to know how a person operates, whereas a community is the online version of what you do in the physical world…participate in conversations, clarify, understand, learn, etc… You can even compare a person’s earlier contributions to their later one’s, and see how a person has grown, changed, evolved…
Online communities have a human quality (you get to know a person’s character, style, know-how), whereas DMS are a filing cabinet (much more impersonal).