Within any workforce there are new workers and old workers. This is not an age debate and when I refer to new worker I mean new to the company and old workers as been there awhile.
They say you can master a job or at least hit your stride after 18 months.
So what does this mean for new workers? Do they need 18 months to get up to speed? As you bring on more new employees, as I am experiencing right now, you have to find ways to create institutional knowledge. I think 18 months sounds high (at least in the startup technology world) and that can be an eternity if it were really the case. I am sure this is some kind of average across many different disciplines.
For me, this is knowledge that trancends all departments and is the final word on a matter. Most of the time this is a philosophical choice made by the founders or management. Most of the facts are presented as “This is how it is done. ” which may be met with some opposition but a need is probably in place for the “why” behind this method.
This is not to say this cannot later be challenged. Far from it in my own case. I actually thrive when I am in an environment that is maleable to change and I can fix or repair institutional knowledge rot.
Back to the first case, it can become vitally important to a company to have this IK. It represents not only the way in which things are done but also the thought structure and even culture of a company.
Being open to learning the IK of other departments is also essential. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have found out the inner workings of another department and had an “a ha” moment explaining what has been going on behind the scenes.
Thankfully I now work in a startup which is not yet an institution.
I began thinking about this topic as I productize materials to begin to get other people up to speed as fast as possible. I reccognize that with fast growth comes institutional behavior – but if you handle it right you can come out on the other side with a great institution with great culture all stemming from a great team.Education, Knowledge Flow, Knowledge Management