“Tribal Knowledge is a very damaging thing to your project and your company, because people leave. They move on to other jobs. They get assigned to other projects. And, even more often, they just forget.”
R. C. Bowen
There was a woman who worked for a large Corporation that was referred to as “the walking encyclopedia.” If a question came up about almost anything that no one seemed to know the answer, this woman was asked… and she usually knew the answer. She carried around a world of knowledge. However, when she began to talk about retiring, Management was in a panic because her knowledge was going to also walk out the door.
Building a sustainable organization requires managing the risks related to critical information being lost when someone leaves the Company – planned or otherwise. This can be done through a commitment to documenting your Company’s Critical Processes and other key information known only by one or a few individuals.
Documenting a Company’s Critical Processes and other key information positions a Company to move from tribal knowledge to institutional knowledge. Tribal knowledge is defined as information known by an individual or a small group of individuals within an organization but is not common to others. This information that is limited to a few individuals usually is significant in its contribution to the organization’s success. Sustainability is threatened if tribal knowledge defines the way a Company does business. The goal should be to build institutional knowledge so that the Company is no longer threatened when the “walking encyclopedia” retires.
Aldridge Kerr can help your organization move from tribal knowledge to institutional knowledge.