The processes that your employees use to deliver the services to your customers are one of your most critical strategic business assets. This is the “knowledge” that is most critical to the operation of your organization. Many organizations are looking at the impact of changes to their workforce and how this will impact their business model. One of the business risks that everyone identifies is the fact that a lot of knowledge will walk out the door with those folks.
Employees have different forms of knowledge that are valuable to the organization but I believe that one of the biggest risks of loss of knowledge is around the business processes within an organization.
There are some keys things that people know that is often not formalized, documented and maintained within an organization. This results in the following:
- No clear understanding or what people’s roles are in the processes
- Processes including accountability and ownership of the processes are not documented, agreed to and approved
- Employees just do their work on a daily basis and often in a silo without understanding how what they do is an input or output of another key process
People within the organization don’t understand how work gets done they just know that every month Jane does that magic thing that makes sure the outcome is achieved. As long as the “key” people are there to do the work it is not a problem that all the knowledge and information is in their head or personal notebook because they will just make sure it gets done. The risk is that if they are no longer a part of the company and the information is not captured then the information or knowledge leaves with them. Another risk to an organization is that if the processes and workflows are not understood then they can’t be measured or improved both from an effectiveness and efficiency perspective.
So why do we need to change this? I believe that in order to bring ownership of the process and workflow knowledge back to the organization you need to ensure that you document at least the key business processes, model them to make sure they are performing as desired, and then ensure agreement from all the people involved in the process that it has been accurately documented. This then leads to the opportunity to improve the processes if that is a desired activity and apply automation to workflow and activities where appropriate.
The other benefit is that the organization is no longer dependent on the people that do the work they are able to run independent of “who” does the work as long as it is someone who has the right desire, knowledge and ability to perform the process activities.
I urge you to take a look at your business processes within your organization and start thinking about them as your strategic assets which are the foundations of your company and how you deliver service to your customers and make sure they are safely stored within your organization and not with someone else.