Many companies talk about challenges building up a ‘corporate memory’ – or in other words, what to do when the only person who knows how to do something leaves.
In our business process management orientated culture, there is probably an unstated drive to be less dependent on experts, since they can always leave.
Is there a better way to do it?
A culture which places the expert in the centre might mean experts are more enthusiastic about sharing what they know, rather than resisting it, for fear of making themselves easier to release from the company.
Ideally the company should be gathering stories – when something unusual happens, the person in the centre of it writes the story down, and indexes it, so it can be easily retrieved the next time something similar happens.
Companies try to harness expert knowledge in the form of ‘business rules’ – but that’s quite an inflexible way to do it. An expert might make millions of judgements he doesn’t even understand himself. This is quite hard to harness in a business rule which someone else (or some other computer system) needs to follow.
An expert – centric business would be entirely organised about helping the expert make better decisions – gather better information, present it better, collaborate with the right people, see what happened last time – and then record all the details about the decision for next time. Who is doing this?