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I work in a team with wide range of expertise and experience. I have been trying to introduce weekly knowledge sharing sessions. Sessions of 30-60 min length where everybody gets a chance to present something and talk about it. This will contribute in improving presentational and language skills. However, the team is not motivated towards this, either the attendance is too low or none. How to get a team work towards such an idea?

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How are they reinforced for attending? Any benefit other than hanging around? –  S.Lott Jan 12 '11 at 19:46
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The team needs to see value in attending the sessions. Others have suggested bribes(food etc). If the team sees no immediate return from investing their time they will not participate. Don't the stronger members of your team already share knowledge in the normal course of the day? –  Jeff Jan 12 '11 at 20:21
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Here's a question:

Are your project and feature deadlines reasonable?

Just playing devil's advocate - If I were on your team, and I was worried about meeting deadlines for my current project load, then I too would be inclined to skip such superfluous knowledge sharing sessions.

In sum, I'm have no use for knowledge sharing sessions if it compromises my ability to meet project deadlines within the context of a reasonable 40-hour workweek. My time away from work is simply too valuable.

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The problem is, there will never be time unless you and your colleagues make it. 30-60 minutes out of the week doesn't sound like a huge deal to me. –  Mike Weller Apr 26 '13 at 12:51
    
@MikeWeller: 1. 30-60 minutes does not equate to 30-60 minutes of lost time programming. It's greater than that because of the context switching. I'd say, multiply by 3. // 2. It is if there's a greater than 50% chance that time spent on a knowledge sharing session will impact my ability to eat dinner with my family, then I'm not going to be thrilled about it. –  Jim G. Apr 27 '13 at 18:43
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Have you tried these yet:

  • Bribe with free food. This can sometimes work for getting people to show up which is a start.

  • Prizes based on tests after the presentation. For example, have a 10 question multiple choice test from the presenter at the end to see who remembered what from the presentation.

  • Try to make the sessions useful for those watching. Think about this from the side of why should someone on the team watch this. Is it just to support the team, like Puddy's face painting on Seinfeld? Is it a fun presentation with some interactive moments?

Just a few ideas of things to contemplate.

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Good points. Only that I do not have funds for food/other items. But this gives some ideas -thanks –  ring bearer Jan 12 '11 at 19:58
    
Personally, we use the spare change that no one really use (e.g all those useless 5 or 10 cents coins) for the "free food": good for morale and team building, give it a try. –  wildpeaks Jan 12 '11 at 20:25
    
Not sure it can be done for free. Around here if you want anyone to show up for anything, it's going to require pizza. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 26 '13 at 14:22
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How are they reinforced for attending?

This is central to answering the question.

  • Management demands that their tasks be done on time, and under budget with no "extra" time for knowledge sharing. What's the reward?

  • Management demands that any time spent in knowledge sharing be made up. What's the reward? Getting to stay late?

  • Management makes it impossible to attend because there's always something more important going on. What's the reward for attempting to attend?

It's very easy to subvert knowledge sharing by the implicit (or even explicit) claim that the knowledge sharing is of no value.

If the knowledge sharing is going to have a reward to people, it has to have value to the organization. It is has to make people happier or more productive. It has to reduce cost or risk.

What potential problem areas does the organization have right now?

Hint. Compute the "lottery factor" -- how many people can win the lottery and leave without causing problems? When the lottery factor is low (i.e., 1 person leaves and you're all in trouble) then management will see the value in sharing that one person's knowledge. So will other people, since they might find some job advancement.

For each technical skill (or knowledge sharing area) compute the lottery factor. How many people know this? How many of them can we afford to have leave? Find the subjects with the smallest lottery factors. Make it a total cost-saving, risk-reducing victory for everyone concerned.

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In order to run these kind of sessions successfully, you need a team culture where people learn from and teach teammembers when the need arrises. You might need to work on team culture first, organise joint training sessions for new knowledge areas, pair veterans with less experienced collegues in a coaching role, etc.

Find people feeling strongly about an ambiguous or new subject (coding standards, future frameworks, enhancements to current toolsets, lessons learned from past experience) - you should be able to spot these during the (bi)weekly project meetings - and invite them to research those issues in small internal projects (sometimes 1 person alone, sometimes with a few people) where the end goal of the project is to present the results in your learning sessions. Give them a time budget in which they can do this.

Make it clear that the presentations in these sessions are voluntairy, that there is ampel room for discussion and that the outcome of the session will shape the way projects are run in the future. Commit to the outcomes of those sessions if there is enough consensus - this can be scary at first but it shows you take your team members serious while inviting them to participate in structuring their own future work.

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what you can do is don't make it weekly session instead share knowledge on the go! Encourage team members to ask questions and seek help from others when ever they face problem.

Identify people and interact with them frequently, seek their advcie, help and inputs.

This way you can achieve your goal.

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