Thursday, 27 January 2011

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone - a plea for the little knowledge

Almost Gone
A lot of the crucial knowledge in an organisation is the “little knowledge”, the "small technology " and "little ideas" that disappear when the people leave. With offices and factories running very lean nowadays, there is not much room to revitalise this knowledge, and it is vulnerable to loss.

The Press and Journal in 2008 described such a situation

"After a maintenance technician retired from a plant producing soybean oil, large batches of oil suddenly started to go bad during production. It took the company two years to rediscover the simple trick that this retired technician knew made the difference. Unexpectedly losing this veteran employee’s knowledge cost the company millions of dollars in lost product and sales revenues".
Part of the problem is that this knowledge is not be "valued" by the organisation. Even worse, it might not be valued by the person who holds the knowledge. A couple of years ago I did some retention interviewing with an guy who was very experienced in a particular manufacturing process. When I called him to say I was coming for a couple of days, he said “Oh you won’t need that long. I really don’t know much, you will be done in an hour”. He valued his knowledge too low – I was there for a full 2 days, and we captured enough material to write a new manual.

SO beware of losing the “little knowledge”. Little knowledge has big value, even it it’s not immediately obvious. Don’t wait until its gone before finding out the value of what you know!

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