Management Bug: Lack of Know-how Transfer

A MngtBug is a problem, cause or impact in a human manager’s decision which produces an incorrect or unexpected result. Every other week we share a little bit of our knowledge base on social media and our newsletter.

This week’s MngtBug is…

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Have you ever seen this MngtBug? How did you solve it?
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This week’s “Lack of Know-How Transfer” is a very specific problem.

By definition, the know-how is the knowledge and skill required to do something correctly.
(Extracted and adapted from

Knowledge is vital to an organization’s success — but business leaders often fail to spend much time assessing how and when the correct knowledge is disseminated to the appropriate audiences. How do employees learn what they need to learn to do their jobs effectively? How do prospects get answers to their questions so that they want to buy from the organization? Even if these stakeholders do manage to get the information they need, how long did the process take? Was it effective?

Let’s examine the five main ways a knowledge transfer process (or lack thereof) can fail an organization. A shoddy knowledge transfer process is:

1. Inefficient when it serves only individuals. When an employee or a prospect gains information from another person — say, via email or through a conversation, this knowledge has been transferred to a grand total of one person. It takes time and diligence to convey knowledge — and to go through that effort for one person alone is completely inefficient. There are likely dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of other stakeholders who might be in need of the exact same information. That’s a lot of emails or phone calls.

2. Reckless with employees’ time because it’s repetitious. In most cases, stakeholders will get answers and information in a one-on-one conversation. (For instance, an employee asks a colleague a question, or a prospect visits the location to talk with a staff member.) This knowledge transfer process is hardly even a process; it’s disruptive and time-consuming. When a handful of Subject Matter Experts are heavily relied upon to verbally provide information, they’re interrupted frequently to answer the same questions over and over by different people — they spend their time repeating the same information when they could be doing more value-added work.

3. Ineffectual because it’s impermanent. According to the latest research, it’s extremely difficult for humans to remember information they have learned even just a few days ago. This problem — illustrated in the Curve of Forgetting — is exacerbated if the person learned this information verbally. That’s just a reality of the human brain. So not only was the process to acquire the information time consuming and wasteful, it wasn’t even effective. The person probably has forgotten some or most of the knowledge and will be forced to seek it out again.

4. Uncontrolled because no one is accountable. A non-existent or ill-thought-out knowledge transfer process means that no one can be held accountable to be sure the information they have is accurate and up-to-date. When managers and company leadership don’t know:

No one can hold employees accountable to be in possession of the correct knowledge and to leverage it appropriately. This means staff can be wasting time looking for answers, providing incorrect, incomplete, or outdated information to prospects and customers, not following the wrong processes and guidelines — and there’s no proper way to assess their work, correct them, or monitor their improvement afterward.

5. A self-fulfilling prophecy that’s bound to reoccur. Though stakeholders may be willing to go to some effort to find and learn the knowledge they need, when the process stops after they’ve gotten the information they want, the organization misses out on a fundamental opportunity to streamline their process, reduce repetition, and better serve others. Aside from the knowledge giver and recipient, no one else is aware of the gap that existed in the first place — thus, no one can prevent this situation from reoccurring.

  • What they need their staff to know
  • What their staff already know and if it is correct
  • What their staff do not know
  • If the correct information is readily available to all relevant staff

(Extracted and adapted from

Known Associates

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This MngtBug has been mentioned in relation to a number of MngtFixes such as…

“Roles and Ownership Definition”,
“Internal Communication Definition and Implementation”,
“Communication Training”,
“Project Management Templates Definition and Implementation”,
“Knowledge Management Implementation”,
and of course “Know-how Transfer Sessions Implementation”!

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Have a nice week and remember…
Human Managers should strive to be humans while managing and be managed as humans!

Eduardo Espinheira is a Consultant, Facilitator, Manager, Public Speaker, Creator of the Management Bugs&Fixes and the Machiavellian PM Stories

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