Restricting employee's authority and responsibility to make routine decisions. Having highly paid staff do routine tasks that don't require their unique expertise. Not providing the business tools needed to perform and continuously improve each employee's assigned work. Not trusting your people to stop production to stop and fix a problem (jidoka). Not trusting your people to be responsible for the cleanliness, maintenance, and organization of their own work area. Not trusting people with a flat organization structure of largely self-directed teams. Not expecting (and measuring) every person to contribute to continuous improvement.
CEO's are frequently asked "What is the most important asset to your organization?" The standard response is, "Our people." While this is often the general response, it is rarely true. When asked to further define why people are an organization’s most important asset, most managers will resort to primitive answers such as, "They make our products," or "Without them we can't do anything." While these responses are certainly correct, they are a subtle gauge of a lack of trust because they only refer to the physical output of the employee.
This line of thinking is not only broken, it's dangerous for the future of your organization. Regardless of your product or service, your greatest asset is your people; not in what they do but in what they know. Their intellectual capital (tacit knowledge) is something that can move you from being a good company to being a great company. With knowledge empowering people, your organization can develop products your competition simply can't given the same resources.
The failure to leverage employees’ knowledge creates the opposite result. We have seen companies falter when people retire from firms that have failed to create an environment of successful knowledge transfer.
- As executives, dedicate yourselves to supporting substantial efforts to prevent lost knowledge but culturally and physically.
- Create a culture of lean which empowers knowledge workers. Empowerment is a book in itself but to create this environment you must create what Forrester calls HERO (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). Creating a process of improvement through value streaming and Kaizen where management recruits intellectual capital accepts the recommendations for change.
- Emphasize teamwork over teams. Teams refer to small groups of people working together toward a common purpose. Teamwork refers to an environment in the larger organization that creates and sustains relationships of trust, support, respect, independence and collaboration. Creating highly empowered teams that work without titles can create the shift of culture to one that prizes intellectual capital.
- Focus on knowledge capture and allowing knowledge transfer. Several methods can entice team members to transfer knowledge, including mentoring, paired teams, work shadowing and simulations.