Management: Plugging the Knowledge Gap
- John Davidson (Facilitators U.K.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 31 - 33
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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There once was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for understanding and fixing any kind of machine. After a long career with the same company, he happily retired. Several years later, the company contacted him regarding a problem with a piece of production equipment that seemed to be impossible to fix. They had tried everything, but nobody could return the equipment to full capacity. After much persuasion, the engineer flew out to the platform and spent a day studying the equipment. At the end of the day, he marked a small “x” on a component and stated that replacing this component would solve the problem. The component was replaced and full production was restored.
Shortly after, a bill for U.K. £50,000 was received. Very unhappy with this, the company asked for an itemization of the bill. The engineer responded briefly:
One chalk mark: £1.
Knowing where to put it: £49,999.1
While this story is fiction, the problems described are real. Organizations that do not make a concerted effort to plug the knowledge gap will find themselves relearning, or renting, old knowledge at a high cost. It is no secret that the demographic profile of the oil industry is heavily weighted toward the baby-boom generation. What is not clear is the impact that this will have on the industry in years to come. Will the demographic time bomb go off and leave the industry in crisis or is this an overly pessimistic viewpoint? There is a real issue here that needs to be tackled, and the tools and techniques for doing so are well established and easily implemented. The key to avoiding critical knowledge loss, however, is a strategic framework that weaves together the ability to learn with the ability to retain key staff and to make a knowledge-sharing culture a reality.
Framework for Knowledge Retention
For a business to avoid knowledge loss, a strategy needs to be in place with the following key objectives for the organization:
The organization must be able and willing to learn, in addition to the individual.
- Knowledge must be recoverable from staff and contractors.
- It must be easy to transfer knowledge when required.
- Human resources (HR) processes and practices must help knowledge retention.
- Information technology (IT) applications must support retention practices.
Kim2 defines individual learning as “increasing one’s capacity to take effective action.” If we assume that this definition can also apply to organizations, then organizational learning is about increasing the organization’s capacity to take effective action—including maintaining aging platforms. The question then is, When we look at organizational learning, who is doing the learning?
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