By Tom Gordon, Missouri Enterprise Project Manager, APICS Mentor
It has been said that we do not inherit the earth but just hold it in trust for our descendants. However true this aphorism may be globally, it certainly holds true in manufacturing. ISO 9001:2015 §7.1.6, coming under the general heading of §7 .1 RESOURCES, addresses “Organizational Knowledge”. The definition of ‘Organizational Knowledge’ is knowledge that is specific to the organization, gained by experience [internal and external] and that which is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives.
Organizations with limited resources of people power are especially at risk in this area. The ‘sucking sound’ often referred to by politicians is not the sound of jobs going off-shore, rather it is the exodus of baby-boomers forsaking the winter snow and going to play Mahjong in Florida! For example, if Barb, who has been with the organization 30 years, and carved out an important niche over those years decides to leave then the gap left can be horrendous; or Harvey, who has been with the company since its founding and has intimate knowledge of every Customer, product and part manufactured decides to join the Choir Invisible without warning.
Risk has always a positive side, of course, ISO 9001:2015 [and AS 9100D] states that “knowledge shall be maintained and made available to the extent necessary”, a problem may be the ossification of ideas and approaches – “We tried that in 1937 and it didn’t work then”. The opportunity side of long term members leaving is, of course, the chance to try something different but the tendency to ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ is often very great. As a great mountaineering mentor of mine once advised – “Never climb in wet boots!”, based upon his past experiences in the Himalayas.
The problem organization leaders face is ‘balance’. Fred may be a great and experienced engineer, but he still insists upon working on the boards and resists the move to INVENTOR, but that is only a problem for leaders who do not understand how to implement change in their organizations.
‘Balance’ has two components – people and data. A wise organization will conduct a ‘knowledge audit’. A common problem, when asking people to document their unique knowledge, is “If I told you that you wouldn’t need me!” This is, of course, the seamark of a Theory X management style. Theory Y builds upon the notion that people are actively invested in the future and good of the organization so the “if I told you that” mentality is, fortunately absent. A knowledge audit project must be predicated upon openness and transparency. The most effect type of knowledge audit is ‘Bottom-up”, starting at the lowest level in the organization and working upwards. Another advantage is that the higher echelons often gain vital information about the ‘real’ organization. It is a simple process. Ask everyone to complete a survey under the headings of “What I know” and “What I should pass on to others”. Pairing the audit with a mentor process is the really effective way to do this. Mentoring a junior has two distinct advantages. The mentee learns but also the mentor has an opportunity to critically examine what he/she does and think about a better way working together.
The other component is ‘data’. This is where an ERP system really earns its place in the organization. An effectively implemented ERP solution will not only gather data but catalog it, securely, making it available to all stakeholders. It is not often understood that an effective ERP implementation is a virtual picture of the physical world. This allows extensive and accurate “What if’s” but also protects the Organizational Knowledge for future generations.
At Missouri Enterprise, we can help you transfer knowledge and develop other programs to sustain a quality workforce. Connect with your Area Business Manager to learn more.
If you are interested in learning more about how to establish good mentoring practices in your company or if you have workforce or leadership needs, we can help. Connect with your Area Business Manager today.