Site Knowledge Visit

A Knowledge Visit is a very effective way to transfer practical knowledge from a person or team, while they are still practising. One or more people or teams can visit them at their place of work, ask them questions, see them in action, and even try things out for themselves. The Knowledge Visit differs from a peer assist in that the visitors are coming to gain knowledge, not offer it. A Knowledge Visit designed for the transfer of knowledge (as opposed to site visits for review, audit, inspection, due diligence etc.) will generally have three stages; Set Up, Knowledge Transfer, and Debrief.

The role of the visitors. The visiting team at a Knowledge Visit must realise that they are not there as passive observers, but have an active role. Their responsibility is to learn as much as they can. They must ask as many questions as they need in order to be able to carry the learning away with them. They need to be alert and curious, and take detailed notes. Prepare a briefing note for them so they understand their role. Discuss with them the detail of note-taking required.

The role of the hosts. The role of the host team is to be as open and generous as possible with their knowledge. If disclosure is an issue, it is quite possible to make a deal that some things can be said "off the record", and the home team can ask for editorial rights on any visit notes or Knowledge Asset. The host team should see themselves as teachers, and can consider ways in which they can demonstrate their knowledge in action

Could the visitors try out some tasks, or machinery? Can the host team simulate a special event or an emergency, for the visitors to watch? The host team should also make sure that anyone with specialist knowledge is available for the Knowledge Visit.

The transfer of knowledge requires trust, and trust develops through face-to-face interaction. The more interaction you can arrange, the better. Don't dive straight into discussion and dialogue and expect it to work straight away. Try and arrange some ice breaking session, preferably prior to the visit. For example, you could arrange a group meal and drinks for the host team and the visiting team, the night before the visit.

Start the Knowledge Visit itself with an informal activity, such as breakfast, or an introduction session. The visitors could present the context for their business, for example, and the business value of the knowledge they are looking to gain. The host team should thenpresent the context, and the key learnings. Start with a presentation and questions session. The host team can explain the context of the site, their challenges, their solutions, and a general breakdown of how they operate. Allow the visitors to questions as deeply as they need to. Inevitably many answers will be "we will see this as we walk around the site" - but that is OK, as it means the visitors will know what to look out for. If the host team use slides to structure the presentation, make sure these are available to the visitors.

Spend time looking at the reality of operations. One of the main purposes of going to visit the host team, is to watch them in operation. Go for a walk around the site, look at the way people are working, look at the systems and procedures in place, look at the equipment, the building, the roles and skills of the staff. The visitors should be prepared to question as deeply as they need to. Allow the visitors to try things out, as much as safety and operations will allow. This could be as brief as trying out a control interface for a minute, or as complex as trying a simulated emergency. Alternatively, if time allows, one or more of the visitors could spend a day or a week working alongside the host team, to really understand the way they operate.

Arrange a summary and debrief. The manager of the host team will no doubt want to give a summary of the visit, and this can be couched around "what are the key learnings I would like you to take away". However it is even more powerful to ask the visiting team to spend half an hour together to prepare a presentation on "what we have learned". As they build this presentation they will share their learnings with each other, and by articulating their learnings they will remember them better. As they feed the learnings back to the host team, the host team can add additional context, and correct them if they have got their details wrong.

The most basic form of recording is for the visitors to take detailed notes. Provide them with clipboards or notebooks, and plenty of pencils and pens. Encourage them to record the questions asked, as well as the answers. Audio and video recording should also be seriously considered for key words and images of the most vital aspects.

Have a clear idea of the final outcome before you start recording. The main written outcome from the Knowledge Visit is a Knowledge Asset. This needs to contain " guidelines for other sites " history and context from the home team to illustrate the guidelines " names and contact details of the key home team members, for future reference, and " any key artifacts, including photographs. So this determines what you need to record from the Knowledge Visit (the fall-back being, of course, to record everything). Record as accurately as possible what the lessons and recommendations are for the future.

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