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Preserving institutional memory in a utility

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How to ensure that a utility doesn't lose the accumulated wisdom of its employees when they retire or otherwise leave.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Preserving institutional memory in a utility

  1. 1. PRESERVING INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY IN A UTILITY Brian Gongol DJ Gongol & Associates, Inc. June 3, 2015 Iowa WEA Annual Conference Ames, Iowa
  2. 2. What is "institutional memory"?
  3. 3. Books contain formal knowledge
  4. 4. The built environment stores knowledge, too
  5. 5. Institutional memory is different It's what your organization knows because of its people
  6. 6. How institutional memory leaks out
  7. 7. Retirements
  8. 8. Illnesses and injuries
  9. 9. Employee departures
  10. 10. Entropy
  11. 11. Other losses
  12. 12. Test your individual memory Answer these three simple questions
  13. 13. What's your license plate number?
  14. 14. What was your junior-high locker combo?
  15. 15. What color is your neighbor's front door?
  16. 16. If personal memory is that bad... ...then we have to do something formal to capture institutional memory
  17. 17. Formal knowledge I-235 goes from West Des Moines to northeast Des Moines
  18. 18. Institutional knowledge If you're going west past Windsor Heights, get into the left lane before 42nd Street
  19. 19. Funnel of knowledge
  20. 20. Institutional memory is dynamic Books and the physical world are static Institutional memory is where knowledge is synthesized with experience and becomes useful
  21. 21. Fixing problems of institutional memory Organizations are no better than individuals at remembering... In general, they're even worse
  22. 22. Capture it in three parts
  23. 23. Study
  24. 24. Document
  25. 25. Use
  26. 26. Part 1: Study
  27. 27. Ask why
  28. 28. Nobody knows where the dollar sign came from
  29. 29. Method #1: Recruit most curious staff member
  30. 30. Method #2: Set up (or fake) a job shadow
  31. 31. Method #3: Prepare a new-hire orientation
  32. 32. Method #4: Prepare a process flow diagram
  33. 33. Method #5: Wear a glove & throw yourself off
  34. 34. Method #6: Wear a Go Pro for a day * GoPro camera not included. Some duct tape required.
  35. 35. Method #7: Mark up your plans and specs
  36. 36. Every process you study has value If you've never done it before, you need it explained
  37. 37. Every process you study has value If you do it infrequently, you need to capture the best way
  38. 38. Every process you study has value If you do it routinely, you need to standardize and improve
  39. 39. Sometimes the study work is done for you
  40. 40. At least six notes posted on one machine
  41. 41. Studying alone doesn't end frustrations
  42. 42. Part 2: Document
  43. 43. Document your history
  44. 44. ...and ask why you do what you do
  45. 45. Document what works
  46. 46. Document what doesn't work, too
  47. 47. Demolition job gone wrong  Source: BBC News, "Turkey demolition goes wrong"  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8179857.stm  Used with permission
  48. 48. Demolition job gone wrong  Source: BBC News, "Turkey demolition goes wrong"  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8179857.stm  Used with permission
  49. 49. Why is this the system we've decided to use?  Don't judge, just document  Knowing that a decision was made for trivial reasons is better than erroneously thinking it was a deliberate choice
  50. 50. What do you need to know in an emergency?
  51. 51. Don't miss hidden indicators
  52. 52. Capture three types of memory
  53. 53. Event memories What happened?
  54. 54. Decision memories Why did you do what you did?
  55. 55. Process memories What steps lead to others?
  56. 56. Memoirs  Most autobiographies are just memoirs -- what happened  The useful ones introduce decision memories: "Why I did it"  Good biographies introduce the process, but rarely encompass decision memory
  57. 57. Event memory: History books
  58. 58. Decision memory: The Federalist Papers
  59. 59. Process memory: Recipe books
  60. 60. Why do you have to write it down?
  61. 61. Seek to conserve mental energy
  62. 62. Routine decisions are mentally costly
  63. 63. Save your mental energy for big problems
  64. 64. Supplemental media help, but don't store well
  65. 65. Blogs and wikis may help, but are on probation
  66. 66. You still have to get it on paper These books are still around from the 1920s... but good luck retrieving files from a Commodore 64
  67. 67. The writing process enforces clear thinking
  68. 68. Supreme Court decisions: Written for a reason
  69. 69. Decisions and dissenting opinions are valuable
  70. 70. Great teams have great playbooks
  71. 71. Documentation doesn't have to be perfect It just has to be, period. It gets perfected when we get to Step 3: Use.
  72. 72. Know the recipe for your plant's secret sauce
  73. 73. Keep a log of your vendors  And regularly ask for updated linecards
  74. 74. Record why you bought what you did
  75. 75. Name your equipment Numbers are for prisoners
  76. 76. Oval Office · West Wing · White House Not "Suite 247, 2nd Floor, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"
  77. 77. Use humane names  Adequate: Pump 1, Pump 2, Pump 3  Good: East pump, center pump, west pump  Better: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles  Best (?): Sinatra, Oprah, Madonna
  78. 78. Part 3: Use
  79. 79. What can you build into a line score?
  80. 80. Test and measure with a purpose
  81. 81. Standards are the backbone of improvement
  82. 82. Standards require documentation
  83. 83. Employees feel valued when work gets better or easier
  84. 84. Test the manual
  85. 85. Document after every major change
  86. 86. Appoint a historian
  87. 87. Produce an annual report
  88. 88. Warren Buffett: Master of the annual report
  89. 89. Annual report  Employees:  Who worked here?  Who started this year?  Who left?  Training: Who, where, and when?  Capital equipment and services:  New equipment or contracts? Why?  Removed or canceled? Why?  Repairs, changes, and overhauls  Performance:  How much work was done?  Circumstances affecting the work  Special events or conditions  Customers:  What customers did you serve?  New customers?  Repeat customers?  Lost customers?
  90. 90. Produce a yearbook Even just a scattering of pictures can trigger your recall
  91. 91. Highlight, underline, and bookmark
  92. 92. Minutes and reports are necessary But they often aren't used because they remain static
  93. 93. Book knowledge: Change oil every 3 months
  94. 94. Institutional memory: Change oil on events  New Year's  Spring thaw  Fourth of July  First freeze
  95. 95. Reward conscientious documentation
  96. 96. Develop documentation into an expertise  Just like accounting, maintenance, or management
  97. 97. Documentation & standards built Japan Inc.
  98. 98. Honda motorized its first bicycle in 1947 And built its first car in 1962
  99. 99. Today, Honda builds jets
  100. 100. Documentation overcomes a slow start
  101. 101. It must be used to become valuable Toyota is #1 and Honda is building jets because they deliberately work on building institutional memory
  102. 102. Start with a 3-ring binder and loose leaf
  103. 103. Note external sources of change  New regulations  New methods  New state of the art
  104. 104. Read "The Checklist Manifesto"
  105. 105. Keep a second copy of essentials  Parkersburg wasn't the first devastating tornado  It won't be the last
  106. 106. Decisions last longer than you usually expect Often long past the memories and careers of those who made them
  107. 107. Utility decisions have unusually long durations
  108. 108. The weakest ink outlasts the strongest memory
  109. 109. Questions?  Thank you for coming!  Brian Gongol  DJ Gongol & Associates  515-223-4144  info@djgongol.com  Call or email anytime
  110. 110. References and credits  Screenshots of Turkish demolition used under written permission from the BBC  Alexander Hamilton portrait from the public domain: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96513526/  "Bender" page screenshot from Wikipedia used under Wikipedia's open terms of use: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Terms_of_Use  Honda history: http://world.honda.com/history/limitlessdreams/atype/index.html  HondaJet image from press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140519005444/en/Production -Progressing-Honda-Aircraft-Prepares-HondaJet-Entry#.VUvS8vlViko  "Checklist Manifesto" cover art from author website: http://atulgawande.com/book/the-checklist-manifesto/  All other photos are original work of and copyright reserved by Brian Gongol

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