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Focusing Expertise So Everyone Wins

Updated: Jul 14, 2018

Redirecting the mistaken belief that hording knowledge is job security.

At a roundtable we hosted, one Executive shared a situation where longtime employees focused on directing all activities associated with their job, and were unwilling to share their expertise with others. This attitude was hindering efforts to establish a new model of operating in a fast growing company.

The company designs and builds, high cost & quality, low quantity, custom testing equipment. Customers are located around the global, ranging from large commercial companies to foreign military organizations.

Their proprietary technology, quality, and attention to detail has propelled them into being a leader in their field. Their success has resulted in rapid growth.

Historically, a single design engineer was assigned to handle customer interface, identify requirements, design-build-test the product. Once delivered the engineer act as the point of contact for post-delivery action.

As the company grew, a separate department was created to fabricate and build the product. Also new engineers were hired to expand the group. These new structures added new skills and additional competency within company. Unfortunately, tension in the workforce was also growing.

The company hired a person to help identify the processes being used and to take a larger look at how work flows through the organization. The intent was to use process mapping as a way to establish a team effort and promote a team atmosphere.

However, some ‘long time’ Engineers were reluctant to share what they know. People who have this outlook feel that if they share their knowledge, their value to the company would be diminished and the company would no longer have a need for them.

The Move Forward

Much of every specialist’s daily work is routine. Embed the everyday tedious tasks into the process. Allow the process to take care of the mundane tasks.

By placing routine tasks in the processes, this frees up the engineers to make larger contributions to the company. First, the engineers can verify and validate the processes are structured and working as intended. Second, engineers use their specialized knowledge and experience to solve problems of greater importance, or greater impact to the organization.

Once the Engineers start looking at how to anticipate and prevent problems, issues between departments are reduced. Engineers become a more influential contributor to the team they are working on. Hence making them more valuable to the company.

The analogy to this approach is that engineers much like an airline pilots. When everything is running smoothly, their job is not very exciting. The pilot’s true value is when things do not go well. The pilot has the expertise, knowledge, and training to overcome difficulties and deliver a successful flight.

Dave Nave

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