Succession Planning: The Importance of Knowledge Management

April 27th, 2009 by

By Pat Hinds

Recently on the front page of the Calgary Herald was an article entitled, “City Set to Lose Half its Bosses.” The article speaks to the 100 senior staff members getting ready to retire in the next two years; the piece eloborates on the city’s succession planning it has done over the last six years and indicates how it is comfortable with the postion they are in as they move into this time of change. It is very important when doing succession planning that companies spend the time to determine how information knowledge transfer is going to happen and what role technology can play in the process.

Being in sales for most of my professional career, I have seen significant turnover in sales personnel and have identified that the process of replacing sales people with new compentent personnel is not necessarily the issue. Companies have done a good job of building processes to identify qualified candidates and have implemented a screening process to ensure that candidates are qualified and compentent. I have also observed that when the new person starts, companies have done a good job of offering knowledge to the new person on company policies and procedures. The succession process breaks down in the knowledge transfer of information that has been collected by individuals that are leaving of which they deem it to be their own intellectual capital or property.

A recent example that I witnessed was a salesperson who worked as a major account rep for a company for six years transferred into a new role; in return, the company hired a new rep who was experienced and competent. The rep was given the account information they required including billing, contracts, and access to the company CRM; nevertheless, the new account manager noticed that the information he was given from the former sales rep was incomplete and provided minimal information on the roles of the key contacts and the relationship with the contacts. The new rep decided his next course of action was to scan the outgoing reps business cards to help close the gap on identifying contact roles; during this process another sales rep for the organization questioned if the new rep should be scanning the business cards as he felt that this was the proprietary information of the former sales rep. Herein lies the challenge with succession planning; individuals feel that certain knowledge they acquire while in their role is proprietary. They are taught not to share this information, but rather to use it to establish their value within an organization.

When you have had single digit turnover of staff the lose of this knowledge will be manageable, but as companies are faced with a mass exodus over a short period of time they need to focus efforts on the collection of this “personal proprietary” information. Companies need to look to technology to help with this process. As I have made reference to in earlier blogs, web 2.0 tools and components of some social networking sites allow companies to successfully share information and knowledge. This is integral to successful succession planning and the evolution of an effective company knowledge repository.

Topics: Business Intelligence