The Knowledge Matrix – Keep tabs on SPOKs August 30, 2007Posted by Darth Sidious in Managing Employees.
One of the biggest internal risks to your organizations are SPOKs (Single Points of Knowledge). We do not like SPOKs, they have an incredible amount of leverage against the organization – and by nature will subconsciously abuse it.
Consciously or subconsciously they’ll notice that they can get away with certain things that other employees can’t, and maybe they’re not sure why, but management will tolerate it because they know if they know of the damage this person can inflict if they are made upset. And that could be in the form of the SPOK leaving suddenly and creating a large vacuum in mission critical areas that aren’t easily filled, or even on a malicious level.
We’ve written about SPOKs before, so the next step is to employ the good management practice of monitoring SPOK Risk Exposure (SRE).
It consists of putting together a spreadsheet that itemizes all the areas of the business or department that the staff have knowledge in with regards to the operations of the business, products, and technology.
Your SRE is a combination of a few things:
- How well does the team overall understand that area. If you have one Expert and no one else with any familiarity, then your risk is potentially high.
- How well documented is the area. The more documentation you have the less risk there is. Documentation is always a good thing; but it has to be kept current, otherwise it can be worse than having no documentation at all. Documentation’s primary purpose is to reduce the learning curve for anyone who needs to become familiar with that area.
- How critical is the area to the vitality of the business? If it’s not vital at all (e.g. what food the Panna Monster enjoys the most), then whether you have an army of experts or no experts, your SRE doesn’t vary much.
The SRE is generally subjective in that you’re factoring these three things and coming up with an overall gut feel. Though conceivably could come up with a formula to compute it.
To monitor the SRE you’ll want to employ what we call the Knowledge Matrix, which captures who knows what, how well they know it, and compare that against the level of documentation and mission criticalness to highlight the overall risk.
As a manager, you’ll want to focus on the high risk areas by getting more documentation going, and get that knowledge transfer happening. At the same time, this isn’t a one time exercise; you have to continually refresh the Knowledge Matrix so that you’re aware of the situation, and managing plans to reduce your risk.