Managing the Loss of Knowledge

People are the most valuable piece of the supply chain puzzle. Without great supply chain folks, our supply chains would break, the wheels would stop turning, and we would end up in chaos.

It is the knowledge that people hold that make them invaluable; knowledge of their supply chains, the collaborative relationships that they have established with supply chain partners, their understanding of how the intricate and complex supply chains operate, and their understanding of the support systems in place.

The problem is that people don't stay around forever. They change jobs and companies and take with them critical knowledge.

So how do you mitigate the risk of losing critical knowledge from your supply chains?

5 comments on “Managing the Loss of Knowledge

  1. Cryptoman
    July 9, 2012

    Managing loss of knowledge is not just a threat for the supply chain. Coming from a software development environment, I used to come across this problem all the time. I think the methods I used to use are also applicable to the supply chain related threats which I have presented below. 1- Always make sure that the design and the software code are documented and cross examined by at least one member of the team other than the original developer or the designer. 2- Make sure the documentation is kept in a safe place and is updated as required. Access to the documentation should be enabled for all members of the team. 3- If possible, organise the team as pairs who work closely and are able to cover for one another when needed. 4- Have weekly and monthly meetings to get an update from all members in the team. 5- Make sure each email correspondence has at least two members of the team copied on it. 6- In order to inform the team on phone call related correspondence, a short email that includes the key points should be sent to the relevant members of the team. In our software team, we used to keep track of all bugs (big and small) using a management software. That software used to provide visibility of all known issues to every member of the team. Progress on each detected bug would be added to the database via this software, which kept everything up to date. When a new member joined the team, he/she could easily get up to speed with the issues of the software at hand and the knowledge would never be lost.

  2. stochastic excursion
    July 11, 2012

    I agree that decisions which are mission-critical to the organization have to be vetted by senior staff.  An organization that thrives on jealously guarded secrets by one or two high flyers is an organization that lacks stability.

  3. bolaji ojo
    July 11, 2012

    Very comprehensive suggestion. Thank you. The departure or demise of a key employee can be devastating for an organization and while this cannot be completely avoided, I believe taking all of the steps you've outlined can help reduce the impact. However, what typically happens is that companies fail to implement this rigorous process. In today's labor market also, it is possible to see employees as easily replaced, which could hurt the implementation of the processes you outlined.

  4. bolaji ojo
    July 11, 2012

    The organization you described will also lack continuity of processes. When a firm fails to assure institutional know-how is coded and easily accessible by other staff in the event of the departure of a key personnel, the most likely scenario is chaos and that hole may not be easily plugged.

    The challenge for most companies is identifying which key players should be able to access the information and ensure regular update as functions and jobs change at the company.

  5. Cryptoman
    July 11, 2012

    Normally all it takes to maintain the system I mentioned is one IT manager who looks after standard tools that most IT managers are very familiar with. The system works automatically and relialy 90% of the time once it is set up. The majority of the problems with this system are due to user misuse which are easy for the IT manager to resolve quickly. Therefore, if the IT manager appears as the key personnel here. However, given the nature of the tools and the standard way it is set up and run, departure of the manager does not cause the system to go into chaos. The important part of the system here is the users and how they use the system, which is under constant auditing anyways.

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