Knowledge Cafe Story

Knowledge Cafes at StatoilHydro

Helping retain knowledge from retiring employees



Brita Trębakken 


Knowledge Cafe



In 2007 the two major oil companies in Norway, Statoil and Hydro, merged. As part of the integration process, it was decided to offer voluntary retirement packages to personnel that had passed the age of 58. Within Project Management a possible consequence was to loose some of the most experienced project managers.

Something had to be sone to keep some of the knowledge they had gained within the company for future employees. The Project Academy contributed to this by arranging a series of Knowledge Cafes. Mainly the Knowledge Cafes were arranged as described by David Gurteen, but we made some adjustments to meet our specific situation:
  • We took care to invite a mix of experienced and inexperienced people to the Cafe. We specially invited the trainees in our company, even those who were not engaged within project management.

  • We let the guest speaker (the project manager) talk for at least 20 minutes. They were asked to let their speech be a kind of a history from one or several projects, and to end with a dilemma that was to be discussed by the groups.

  • We organized the groups in a way to mix experienced and inexperienced people for the first conversation round.
Due to high meeting activity this autumn, the Cafes had to be arranged outside the office areas. We found a nice place at an allotment garden where we were treated with wafers and jam Fridays after lunch. From August to December we had 5 events where we focused on different issues that use to be a part of project management life.

The experiences can be summed up:
  • It is a challenge to invite dedicated project people to something that are not to be concluded in an action plan.

  • Participation varied from 5 to 18 people. The Cafe concept doesn't work well with fewer than 10 people - at least not for us.

  • Most people that participated in the Cafe were engaged about it and said they gained new insight from the sessions.

  • This is an easy way to transfer knowledge without using lots of resources. We met the people really interested in widen their knowledge base, and the project managers already had their stories so there were a minimum of preparing even for the speakers. There was no documentation made from the Cafes which means nothing kept for them not able to attend. But would they ever find time to read it?
It was a nice way to finish off the workweek with some new ideas put into our heads!

Video: Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006

Gurteen Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006 in Hong Kong, December 2006, facilitated by David Gurteen and Raksha Sukhia. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Knowledge Management Research Centre.

Media Information: Image

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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