I have a new perspective in life from a recent working experience. How do you communicate at work? It is the long chain of question/response emails or the hidden directory where everybody is puzzled to find and even to update the right document. Do you really care about the document which was updated four years ago and nobody revised it?

I stare at the screen and realize the worst case scenario is about people pushing digital information with no benefit to their work. There are a few tenets of sharing information or having a repository of your organizational knowledge:

  • make it easy to be found, accessed and shared; based on my experience people will embrace it if their work will benefit by using the document repository
  • allow people to get the big picture first and then dig deep into details instead of presenting the intricate 200 pages fully detailed document. Time is important and some decisions are based on a few criteria. If someone can create an “executive summary” then people can stand on top of the details and use the information for further ideas.
  • create slices of information; each project has different views and it is almost impossible to separate their facets (financial/project management/technical details/etc…). Those slices are not separable but tightly coupled with the core of the project. People are interested to see different slices and someone in your organization has to make that available. And not forget about the management rights for documents !
  • strongly believe that your problem is not unique and other people out there already scratched their heads and pondered about it. Formulate the problem and try to explore outside solutions (to your organization) before jumping in a five minutes discussion span about the implementation. There are already solutions even adjacent to your problems !

So here I am, as a consultant, asking for documents and getting back Excel documents used to store lists of … This is the environment where people are crossing check-boxes by creating meaningless documents which are just a simple list of tasks/features/colors/etc….

The worst part is that decisions which can affect the fate of a product in the future or the money spent to support it are taken by common sense. Discussions are the highest level of debate and common sense is the knife instead of decision trees, balancing score cards, supporting weight factors for criteria with hard core numbers (from sale/production/etc…).

So, from where did I get the title for the post?

Well, for me is the presence of white boards; if I will not see them hanging in the engineering department’s walls, dirty with sketches and with cramped drawings then people are coming in that company for another buck, not to make a difference. And for a consultant, not at decision maker level, is hard to switch your peers to something else. The common point of shutting you down is that “you don’t know our system”. But I worked with fifty other systems which are better than yours … Interested to hear about them?