Rediscovering what you already know

This post is more than 3 years old.

J.C. Penney Co. store downtownI see a surprising number of organizations and businesses that suffer from the malady of reinventing basic business processes and rediscovering tools and resources they already had, at the expense of using up valuable staff time and straining relationships with their customers and constituents.

Sometimes this reinventing and rediscovering happens because there's been a change in staffing, sometimes it happens because people just don't bother to write things down.  But I'm amazed at the "shortcuts" people think they're taking to work around those cases:

  • We couldn't find our username and password to manage our website domain name, so we just registered a new one and re-printed our business cards.  Problem solved!
  • We forgot that our last IT person already had a Facebook page setup, so we setup a new one and then asked everyone to like the new page.  Problem solved!
  • We're not sure where the source design files are for our marketing brochure, so we'll just design a new one.  Problem solved!

Meanwhile you've lost a bunch of would-be visitors to your website who still have your old business cards, halved your population of Facebook followers, and wasted someone's week on solving a problem that was already solved.

Sometimes it is faster to take a shortcut - I'm guilty of using the "forgot my password" feature on web applications WAY too often because I haven't bothered to do a good job of tracking the password used when I don't use the service but a few times a year.  And there can be value in having a given process considered with fresh eyes and new perspective, even if it is because the old way wasn't well documented.

But when you find yourself repeating this exercise over and over again, spending time and energy (and money?) reinventing or rediscovering some core parts of your operations, you have to wonder if there's room for improvement:

  1. Encourage the building and documenting of shared knowledge using tools like wikis, intranets, internal blogs, and shared document repositories, and train staff on how to use them ("All of our key account information related to our corporate website is in that folder on the shared network drive.")
  2. Facilitate easily checking in with coworkers before launching something new ("Hey, I'm gonna create our new Facebook page, anyone see a reason not to?")
  3. Audit the time your staff spends getting up to speed on core business practices or resources.  ("The last three marketing department hires each spent 10 hours researching and documenting area printing services we could use - maybe there's something wrong here.")

What parts of your organizational operations are being unnecessarily reinvented or rediscovered on a regular basis?

How do you make sure your staff members build on what you and your coworkers already know?

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