Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Tribal Knowledge Project: Facing Reality

A couple dozen of us at BlobCo have started a project to collect and share the deep, secret knowledge of the gurus on our technical staff - those amazing people who can get to the bottom of any customer's problem, no matter how intermittent or bizarre. They know things the rest of us don't, and we'd all be more valuable to our customers if we could learn what they know.

I've been given the extraordinary privilege of coordinating this effort. I don't think of it as leading, because all I'm doing is facilitating the process of deciding what to do and how to do it. Later I'll organize the information that comes out of the project. These are things I do anyway, as part of my job, so it doesn't feel like I'm doing any leading. Maybe steering a little, since I have deep, secret knowledge of how to collect and present information; but it's the folks in the front of the canoe who will keep us from smashing up on the rocks in the places where the water flows fast.

We have about one big mental breakthrough a week. I don't know about you, but that's enough to keep me really excited about the project. At our last meeting, the big idea was to work in teams of two or three to work out the process for solving each of the problems on our list.

But things are getting busy at BlobCo. We have a product release coming up. On top of that, everyone who's not involved in that is getting ready for a big conference. And this project hadn't even been imagined when people figured their headcount requirements for the year.

One of the technical services people came to me quite upset that she wasn't going to have time for the project for a while. Time to deal with reality. Since it's crucial for me to keep the project from becoming a burden, I let everyone know we were calling a halt to work on the project until after the conference and product release. When I updated the VP of Mumble on our progress, I explained this decision, and he agreed - he needs his people to focus on the company's current priorities.

The Tribal Knowledge Project will go live again next month. I'm looking forward to continuing our adventures.

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