October 23, 2021 • 2 min read

Tribal Knowledge: How Managers Can Identify It And 3 Easy Ways To Start Fixing It Today

Ship 30

Tribal knowledge is any unwritten information that is not commonly known by others within a company.

Most people have experienced some form of tribal knowledge at a company.

It's a productivity nightmare.

The good news is small changes to address these issues will skyrocket your team's productivity.

Let's identify some common patterns in teams suffering from this issue.

Repeatable Q&As

"Where can I find this?" "Why do we do things this way?".

These questions point to a lack of internal documentation.

Your goal should be to empower your team members with the resources need to do their work independantly.

Bus Factor of 1

Can point to any one member on your team and say "that person has knowledge that no one else does"?

If yes, you've got a bottleneck.

This can horrendous if the person is sick, takes PTO, or worse leaves the company.

Stunted Scaling

Having trouble onboarding new team members and getting them up to speed?

My guess is that they've been constantly asking questions since they started too.

This has tribal knowledge written all over it.

Luckily you can implement these 3 simple process changes to start seeing an impact by the end of your day.

  • Documentation - This one should be obvious. Start doing this yesterday. Written, audio, or video format are all great options. Encourage team members to also spend time contributing to documentation as well.

  • Show 'n Tell - Yes, like the kindergarten activity. Get everyone in a room together to shadow someone while they work. This way you're scaling knowledge horizontally across your team.

  • Delegate Responsibility - As the manager you cannot be the only one answering questions. Encourage senior team members to take on the responsibility of owning a part of the work. This way you can redirect common questions and continue to focus on your work.