Transfer between generations

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The sharing of knowledge between employees in subsequent age-groups


Nuclear projects normally last for many years or decades, and undergo numerous phases with different organizational structures, which will operate in diverse environments – particularly from a technological point of view.

Requirements should be specified, in order to provide assurance that knowledge management and transfer are properly taken into account in the different phases of a nuclear project. This means that for each phase of a NPP’s lifecycle – i.e. design, fabrication and construction, commissioning, operation (including long-term operation and extended shutdown), and decommissioning – knowledge management and transfer from one phase to another should be carefully planned and executed.

Long-term KM planning and implementation ensures that a nuclear project will be able to operate – for very long periods – as a highly reliable, efficient and safe plant or system. Managing knowledge across all phases of nuclear projects and plants means ensuring the availability of essential knowledge required for safety functions throughout the service life, with taking into account changes that inevitably occur with time such as: organizational changes, evolution of information systems and related media and formats, changes in IT infrastructure and so on.

There is an evident risk that in absence of knowledge transfer plans, essential knowledge can be lost between different phases of a project, for a variety of reasons. The most evident is that for every phase the project will employ a different workforce within different organizational structures: e.g. some competencies needed during the design phase may not be required during operation – and at that stage new competencies will be needed. Moving from a phase to another in a nuclear project can create a knowledge gap independently from other risk factors such as attrition, diminishing job tenures, less availability of skills on the market for the nuclear sector etc. Clearly, some essential knowledge can be lost in the transition from one phase to another if it is not properly codified and/or transferred in advance.

All these risks can be mitigated with careful plans and a clear strategy for long-term preservation of knowledge within the project. Organizational evolution of a nuclear project requires the upfront planning of competencies needed at each phase, and the simultaneous creation of knowledge transfer plans for core competencies and skills. In addition, the organizational knowledge must be captured and codified at each phase. Together with a well-defined process for knowledge capture and transfer, a range of IT and information management tools for supporting the creation and transfer of knowledge as standardized and codified knowledge, collected through well-established processes, are of extreme importance in relation to documenting the experience from the separate project phases.

Organizational and workforce changes are not the only risks related to knowledge preservation in a nuclear plant or organization: the project management, the IT department and other data management authorities might implement different information systems, with different media storage and formats, during the project life-cycle. Another risk is related to the constant evolution in the information management industry, which could require upgrade from one media or storage format to another.

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