Knowledge Handover

Although a project may hold a series of After Action Reviews and Retrospects to capture and document knowledge, it is also very good to supplement this by providing a forum where these lessons can be discussed with others, and where technical experts, process owners and project managers from other projects can ask further questions so they fully understand what has been learned and what the implications are. A knowledge handover provides such a forum.

A knowledge handover is a meeting at the end of a project, after the project team has identified and captured their lessons learned, where they share and discuss these lessons with other projects and interested parties such as community leaders and subject matter experts. It is similar to a baton passing meeting, except that the learning points have already been identified, and the lessons have been documented and added to the lessons database.

One of the key points about the knowledge handover is that it should be driven by knowledge pull from the attendees, rather than by knowledge push from the project team (see Pull and Push). The attendees set the agenda. Before the event, the team circulates the list of lessons that they have captured (and may circulate the lessons themselves as well), and the attendees select which of the lessons they wish to discuss further in the handover meeting. These lessons are discussed in individual breakout sessions, and the attendees self-select which breakout sessions to attend.

It is good to kick off the formal part of the knowledge handover with an explanation of why it has been called, what its objectives and deliverables are, why it is important to the business, how it will be conducted, what the purpose of the recording is, and what the end product will be produced. Go through the agenda, discuss roles, make sure everyone understands what they are there to do. It can be useful to start the knowledge handover with an introduction from the business sponsor (in person or by video) describing the importance of the exchange, and the business need. Then provide an overview of the project, its objectives, constraints and deliverables, so everyone can see the lessons in their context.

The individual lessons or groups of lessons are discussed in break-out sessions. This is where the majority of the lessons exchange happens. Divide the attendees into small groups of 8 to 20. Each group needs a facilitator and a scribe, who should be identified and briefed. The facilitator gets the dialogue going, but most of the time the conversation takes off rapidly and barely pauses for breath. The scribe needs to capture as much of the dialogue as possible, in the participants' words wherever possible, and note down who said what. (The session can also be recorded for later transcription, in case any additional lessons are identified.) About an hour may be needed, more if the groups are larger, for effective discussion.

The groups reconvene in the main room, and each group feeds back their findings for discussion in the wider group. The feedback sessions can usefully be recorded on audio or video. Also make sure you also record the details of the discussion that follows, as much valuable knowledge may be exchanged.

The main outcome from the knowledge handover is an improved understanding of lessons which have already been recorded. The knowledge handover meeting is an opportunity for members of future projects to become clear about the actions they need to take, and for the process owners and technical authorities to be clear whether they need to update any process documentation.

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