How to foster knowledge sharing in construction

Here we share some thoughts on how to build a knowledge sharing environment in your construction organisation.

The act of sharing knowledge is one of the most powerful things we can do, in any discipline, job role, company, or industry. It is what drives us forward and allows us to reach new heights. This is particularly important in big complex organisations with many different teams and hierarchies such as government or construction. In construction, the wide array of teams are all heavily reliant on each other to deliver a successful build. Even though this is the case, knowledge, information, data, and current issues on the project are often siloed within teams. This creates an information gap that can pose a potential risk to the projects performance and outcome. Due to the nuances of an organisation, it can be difficult to open up a fully transparent flow of information across all teams. But there are a few things you can do to begin cultivating a more collaborative construction site, and organisation, where knowledge is used to the benefit of all teams. Let’s dive in!

Into the cloud  

We’ll start off with the most challenging, yet arguably, one of the most rewarding things you can do. The vast majority of construction technology and software is designed to make collaboration and knowledge transfer a more streamlined process by utilizing cloud technology. The cloud allows teams to access relevant information on an ongoing project, or on past projects, from anywhere in the world. Most innovative construction technologies use cloud based solutions due to their collaborative upside. There are of course challenges in bringing onboard new technologies to your company or project. A common concern is the time it takes to train your field teams to ensure they are using the new technology as efficiently as possible. If you aren’t sure how to solve this, perhaps this guide on helping field teams adopt new technology can be of use to you.

Communicate with your competitors

Yes, this does seem counterintuitive. But collaboration across competitive organisations can be a great asset. You don’t have to send an executive to speak to another executive to try and find out their secrets. It’s about encouraging your teams to communicate with other people in the industry. If they have a problem with something, encourage them to reach out to other professionals in the industry to see how they do things. And don’t be afraid to share how you do certain things too. The more open you are with how your team works, the more likely others will be open with you. Once you really open up to this cross company collaboration, you will be amazed at how valuable it can be. Additionally, you will find that when your organisation is working on joint venture projects, the process will be much easier to begin since you have proactively cultivated the right environment for it.

Mistakes are okay

A big reason why small mistakes can turn out to have huge consequences is due to the common culture around making mistakes. This goes for any team in any organisation. If an individual worker fears making a mistake due to the consequences this will have on their job, they are more likely to try and sweep them under the rug. This does not foster a very open and collaborative environment. Similarly, it can happen on the team and department level too. If a team are not confident in their work and anticipate pushback from sharing what they have done, thereby exposing potential mistakes and flaws, they are more likely to silo that information. How do you solve this?

By fostering an environment of openness and growth. It is okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes them and if mistakes are openly shared, everyone will learn from them too. Wouldn’t you like to know about a mistake that was made within the team as quickly as possible and understand what led to that mistake? With a rigorous, and empathic, process of identifying mistakes and the reasons for them, you will quickly learn how to tighten up the workflow on your site and the project teams will learn much quicker as well. Being open and sharing mistakes benefits the project outcome as well as the culture within the project team. Don’t underestimate the wealth of knowledge that lies in mistakes.

Document everything

You don’t want to be reliant on any individual person in an organisation. Yes, everyone has individual skills and are good at different things. However, if the only way to successfully complete a portion of your build or to solve a problem is reliant on bringing in a particular person in your organisation with superior knowledge, then your project and organisation are exposed to inflated risk. What happens when that person leaves? What if they are too busy with a bigger project? Storing knowledge in individuals creates too tight of a bottleneck to allow your organisation to thrive in all situations. The way around this is by documenting everything. Did your team just solve a problem in a novel way? Document it. Did you produce 20% less waste in the last quarter because you tried a new delivery schedule? Document it. Delivered a project with higher than average margins? Document it. By doing this over and over again, your company will start to form a repository of useful strategies for all its future projects. A great way to make this accessible is by documenting it all in the cloud, as mentioned above.

Improving knowledge transfer across teams and organisations is more about culture and environment than it is particular tools or strategies. By establishing a culture that values organisational growth and is open to learning from mistakes, you will already see massive improvements. Quickly, your organisation will become a more exciting place to work where people will be searching for ways to improve and impart their knowledge on others because they do not fear judgement. Try one or two of these strategies on a small scale, take it step by step, and see how things start to shift on your project and in the organisation. Let it take time and slowly but surely move toward a more open, knowledge sharing culture. Your company and people will thrive from it.

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