Rex Conner, Lead Partner & Owner, Mager Consortium
The oil & gas industry is just one of many examples of what they call “the big crew change.” They are in the second year of a 7-year stretch in which they are losing 50% of their petro-technical professionals to retirement. If losing a key person or a key group of people is what keeps you up at night, there is a solution for that.
Don’t keep corporate knowledge hidden in people’s mobile minds!
The potentially devastating effect of losing corporate knowledge applies to any organization, but is felt more keenly in the smallest and largest companies. Small, entrepreneurial companies rely so much on the individuals that have to wear many hats and thrive in the chaos to find ways to address the many demands thrust upon them. Large companies rely on the expertise of groups of people, such as the petro-technical professionals in oil & gas. In both cases there is seldom an established process to document or to capture the best way to get things done.
In all cases, an organization can back-up that valuable corporate knowledge that is otherwise stored only in the minds of those people that found ways to get things done and ways to improve on the established processes.
Two people with experience in hospice service started a small hospice company in Southern Utah. One of the first skills they taught all of their new employees was how to map out the processes they followed in their job. They mapped out each process in a flow chart. An admin person catalogued the processes and set a supervisor on each so the creator, or the new person in the job would be required to update the process map periodically.
First, as each person reviewed the updated process with their supervisor, they could be recognized for their creativity and contribution when they found better ways to accomplish each task. Improvements to the processes happen more often than not as people’s creativity is unleashed to find better ways.
Second, when that person doesn’t show up for work one day due to retiring, changing jobs, departing planet Earth, right-sizing, or whatever reason, their processes for accomplishing their tasks are available as a job aid for the replacement. And the cycle continues.
Why teach each person to map processes?
If mapping processes seems like a task that should reside in HR or in Quality, think again. A department in one large petroleum company in the Middle East caught onto this idea and dedicated a team of 6 Quality professionals to map out the task for the more than 10,000 engineers with over 200 specialties in their department. That is great job security for the 6 people, but not realistic to get thousands of tasks mapped, catalogued, and regularly updated.
If many people perform the same tasks, perhaps only one needs to be responsible to map and update the process, but everyone should have the ability to participate in the process in order to capture and recognize the innovations that might otherwise be ignored.
It needs to be a system that is part of the culture.
Mapping, cataloguing, reviewing, revising, approving all need to be processes in the system of capturing the corporate knowledge that otherwise resides only in people’s mobile minds. That gives you the chance to either sleep at night or to find another cause for your insomnia.
About the Author
Rex Conner is the author of What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business? The lead partner and owner of Mager Consortium, he applies the uniquely effective processes of Dr. Robert Mager to the entire spectrum of human performance in the workplace.