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Say No to SPOK July 29, 2007

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in General, Managing Employees.
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No, I’m not referring to the “other universe”. I’m referring to Single Point’s of Knowledge and how they can cripple your company if not actively managed. SPOK’s are individuals in a company who have a certain skill set, knowledge or unique ability that no one else has, and if they left, could seriously harm the company.

Examples include:

A technical person who is the only one that knows how a mission critical piece of software/hardware works.

A sales person who brings in an inordinate amount of sales for the company.

A CEO, whose personal qualities are key to the businesses success. This could be because of sales relationships, deal-making ability, contacts, vision, public image, charisma or management ability.

If any of these people were to leave the company, it would have devastating effect to the company, more so than 1 person should be allowed to have.

How are they created?

In small to medium sized companies, technical SPOK’s are easily formed by the financial restraints to keep the technical team small. Sales/management SPOK’s can be created for the same reason. In large companies, technical/sales SPOK’s usually aren’t a problem, but management ones can exist. Good examples of CEO SPOK’s are Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

Consequences of a SPOK

First and foremost, if a SPOK leaves a company, or perishes, the fate of the entire company could be at stake. Secondly, a SPOK could start making extraordinary demands, essentially black-mailing the company to their whims. Additionally, in situations like these, the SPOK could actively work to maintain their SPOK status, blocking the companies attempt to rectify the situation.

How to manage SPOK’s

In small to medium sized companies, technical SPOK’s should be controlled by having at least 2 people who understand/work on the software/hardware. If you are completely dependent on 1 person because of budget constraints, consider the risk you are taking. It may be better to have less profit, than no company at all.

To mitigate the risk of sales SPOK’s, you must grow your company and sales-force so 1 person doesn’t control a majority of your revenue. As a CEO/owner it would be wise to develop personal relationships with your top clients and thus control the SPOK.

As you may know by now, the Sith operate in teams, with a master and an apprentice, so if one can not continue, the Empire will. Key management SPOK’s should have an apprentice in training, ready to take over when/if the time comes. One of the CEO’s primary responsibilities should be grooming his or her successor, putting the companies’ future ahead of themselves. A sound strategy also includes creating a strong management team, and company policies so that the company can function at 100% regardless of who leaves. No one person’s demise should threaten the future of the company.

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