Tribal Knowledge

Tribal Knowledge is the information that employees acquire over time but is not documented or easy for new employees to obtain.  As employers we should be striving to eliminate Tribal Knowledge completely as quickly as we can. 

There is a tremendous amount of waste involved in bringing people up to speed with all of the information that they need to be successful at a new job. At the same time that you are trying to indoctrinate these new team members into your culture they are trying to figure out such trivial items as where to take the garbage, how to use the fuel pump, or whether they can use a wrench out of a tool box.  These are perfect examples of items that visual management can improve. 

My suggestion is to interview new hires often and keep track of questions they ask, then come up solutions to bring tribal knowledge into the light. For trash put a map in the break room with dumpster locations, make all of the trash cans the same color, and mark on the side a mark to show that they are full enough to be emptied.  How about an organized tool area with all of the tools in a designated space and a sign that says “Please return these tools when finished”? Laminated signs on the fuel pump designating the type of fuel, the way to use the pump, and having each machine clearly labeled to where and what fuel to use.

The best part about getting Tribal Knowledge into the open is that you only need to set up a system once and then take some small effort to maintain it. Once things are documented you will be saving money and burden for each new employee that you onboard.