Are You “At Risk” of Tribal Knowledge?

“We have a ton of tribal knowledge; nothing is written down, and it seems that everyone does things differently.”

Companies often struggle with the lack of documented processes, commonly referred to as “Tribal Knowledge.”  Typically, company leaders feel that having too much “Tribal Knowledge” is a risk, and for good reason. If you feel that you are at risk of tribal knowledge in your company, ask yourself these questions:

What would happen if certain people in your organization were to leave

If the only person who really knows how to do something in your organization wins the lottery and abruptly quits (or “gets hit by a bus,” we prefer not to use that phrase) and no one else knows how to do whatever it is s/he was doing, your company may be left flat footed!  Depending on his/her role, this could be as minor as how to package products, or as major as to how to handle the next steps in a strategic customer engagement.

Does everyone do the same task in the same way? 

When multiple members of a group or department all do things according to their own “tribal knowledge” methodology, the results can be as varied as the number of people in the group.  Some people may fill forms out completely, others verbally pass on information.  Some people take 5 minutes to process an order, others take 30.  Again, depending on the role or process, this may mean unpredictability in staffing for certain tasks, or having a customer who really likes their product or service delivered one way, only to have it done by someone else the next time and have preferences missed.

Do you feel like it would be easier to just “do it yourself” than to hire an additional resource to help?

Companies often tolerate tribal knowledge until they grow to the point that they must staff up to support the new pace of business.  Terrific problem to have, but can be stressful when you hire new employees and discover that training them is disorganized and time-consuming due to tribal knowledge.  When nothing is written down, steps may be missed and new hires become overwhelmed because the big picture is not clear. 

If these questions resonate with you, it might be time to document your Tribal Knowledge! 

Getting started can be simple when broken it down into manageable steps.  We can help guide you through this process, making it as painless as possible for your team, and allowing you to continue operating your business even as you standardize, document, and continuously improve your processes.

Read more about our Process Improvement Consulting methodology here and Contact Us today!