No, just let them go

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What’s the cost of not capturing knowledge before it walks out the door?

During a recent discussion about the knowledge drain, we ended up talking about an organisation whose growth plans didn’t go quite the way they expected.

Here’s the story. Company X (they are always called X) identified that it needed a number of new members for its senior management team to help implement the new growth strategy. Just 18 months later, the strategy collapsed and most of the team had left, taking with them their know how – the knowledge drain

We considered what the costs and the impact this had on the overall business budget, these are just a few musings:-

  • The bill to acquire the new team will have been a large percentage (if not all) of staff development costs as specialist recruitment people were used.
  • What was the cost of waiting for new employees to actually work their notice periods and join so that projects could go ahead?
  • How was the resentment felt within the existing workforce managed, how were they engaged in the preparation process?
  • What was the impact of not effectively communicating the new strategy to existing staff?
  • What was the cost of valuable employees jumping ship because they felt vulnerable and under valued?
  • What innovative knowledge assets were in place to provide their inductions, aside from people with little time and ISO procedures?

What I would like to ask is, what if the organisation had had some strategy for the creation and utilisation of knowledge (intellectual) assets before (or as part of) strategy formation?

Now, you may be new to the concept of knowledge management, but in simple terms…

Knowledge management (KM), exists to better identify, capture and then utilise the knowledge assets of an organisation.

In simpler terms the stuff that you unconsciously do – your know how, skills and expertise. As a solopreneur that is yours, if you have other members of your business or partners that you collaborate it is all of your ‘stuff’ and it is very valuable.

A long time ago Druker coined the phrase ‘Knowledge Worker’ as distinct from a manual worker. Everyone is a knowledge worker.  No matter what role you have, you have ‘know how’ and that’s the bit, that is often harder to capture.  Think about how you make a cake compared to me, who rarely measures out the ingredients and still gets great raw chocolates. (ok sometimes…)

By capturing and sharing knowledge in some way, a company can mitigate some of the losses which occur when ‘shit’ happens – people leave or retire.

Collaboration, opening up lines of communication and feedback becomes essential to continuous improvement and should invisibly exist.

Before you let them go

Consider if, in our example, a knowledge strategy and infrastructure had been implemented and a knowledge culture encouraged.

  • When a number of highly paid executives walked in the door their time to make an impact could have been shortened (i.e. hit the floor running sooner).
  • By joining a collaborative workforce they could have made better decisions based on existing knowledge, instead of re-inventing the wheel.
  • By working as a team and not a remote islands, any issues could have been solved far quicker.
  • As they walked out of the door their knowledge was already captured, being utilized shared, and improved upon.

Perhaps I am wearing rose tinted glasses when I get excited about the possibilities of knowledge management?

  • The idea that people are valued for what’s in their head, and not what they have written in the ISO procedures or their job description delights me
  • On the job mentoring and coaching really does make people feel valued and when they feel valued they make a far greater contribution
  • The thought that organisations can make use of and trust their employees to use social networks and social media, inside the business excites me. I have seen the power of communities of practice for myself through Facebook and LinkedIn groups
  • When I look for information about an organisation, their blogs tell me a lot about them, where a flat website can’t.  Even better when they have departmental blogs and can share learning with me
  • Videos bring a business to life and can show processes better than any words can.  (memo to self – make videos later)
  • Employees who write in journals are less stressed and often get eureka moments that only writing and reflecting can bring
  • Books about and for your business will bring it alive and enable learning and sharing, through your business library and demonstrates additional value to your prospects and customers. Oh yes, it’s great for team building

We often hear that one of the hardest things to measure is knowledge.  Lets turn it on its head and ask, what is the risk and cost of not implementing a KM strategy?

If knowledge is valuable to you and your competitors what actions could you take to  utilise and protect these, assuming you have created the knowledge asset in the first place?

Food for thought?  I think so.

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Jacqui Malpass

Personal Brand Strategist & Book Coach, Jacqui Malpass helps you to find the right story and inspirational message to share. Together we turn your words into books that inspire others.. Personal Brand Strategist | Author | Write your book | Blog your book | Turn your book into a course

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Liz Who Motivates - April 14, 2013

Very good article. An interesting perspective on employee communications and employee relations.

Harriet Stack - April 13, 2013

Fabulous post! It all makes complete sense to me Jacqui. Not only utilising, but also valuing what employees have in their heads and are capable of doing and communicating would transform so many organisations that seem to do the opposite. Also as someone working alone, this is an attitude I need to adopt more consciously for myself. Thank you.

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