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Structuring Knowledge

Structuring the knowledge that is essential to running your manufacturing business is easier with assistance from Kurt B. Carr and using Visual Enterprise.

At its heart, any business is a simply social organization for learning and applying knowledge to solve a problem and earn a profit. Finding an efficient way to structure learning is one of the most important things that a leader does to ensure the success of his business.

“It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
-- Attributed to Harry S. Truman

There are many ways to accomplish this goal. Most successful companies, however, incorporate critical knowledge into the company’s muscle memory. In addition to drawings, bills-of-materials, routings and other conduits of product knowledge; they also create formal processes that organize knowledge, processes that provide the core capability needed to reliably deliver products to their customers.

Companies that are less successful tend to store knowledge in the heads of a few key people. They treat the organization’s success as the province of a select few rather than the job of all. These companies set themselves up for colossal pain and outright failure when their key people disappear.

A couple of years ago I sat in the conference room of a new customer who told me a horrific story that perfectly illustrates this trap. After years of never taking a vacation, Fred* the plant manager finally took a week off to go deer hunting.

Things went well on Monday. However, by the middle of Tuesday it became clear that no one other than Fred really knew what needed to be done. Used to having Fred constantly tell them what to do, herds of line employees just stood around waiting for instructions from him. By Wednesday, people were being sent home, because even though there were piles of work-in-process lying around, no one knew what to do with it. This company had allowed Fred to become an island of specialized knowledge that he only sparingly shared with others.

Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence in many manufacturers. Supervisors become puppeteers, directing all activity within the business. Line employees develop specialized craft skills that are theirs and theirs alone. The whole company runs on tribal knowledge, the undocumented sum of all the intelligence that is required to make the company work.

This feels efficient; since these people are frequently very good and experienced at running their subset of the business. However, it completely breaks down when these people move on; or worse when your company’s growth forces them beyond their limits.

So what do you do when you have to replace Superman? It isn’t like there are two of them.

As odd as it seems, the more complex and customized a company’s products are, the more important it is to formally structure knowledge and execution. Yet custom product companies are precisely where the essential disciplines are most likely to be lacking.

I have years of experience in helping my customers use Visual Enterprise as a tool to organize their tribal knowledge and eliminate the need for supermen. Visual has a host of tools for organizing and maintaining knowledge about your products. It also has the tools necessary to create and manage the formal processes you require to ensure that your customer’s needs are well taken care of.

Using Visual as part of your suite of management tools helps ensure effective execution, better product and service quality and creates the capability required to grow your business. I am Kurt B. Carr and I have years of experience in teaching companies how to use Visual Enterprise as a tool to operate effectively and achieve success. Call (941.776.3830) or email me today so Superman can finally retire.

    * Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  Carr Enterprises is not affiliated with Infor Global Solutions.

Quotes on these pages are for illustrative and entertainment purposes only and are used under the fair-use doctorine of U.S. Copyright law. Absolutely no endorsement of Carr Enterprises services should be implied from use of the quote.
  Copyright © 2000 - 2020 by Kurt B. Carr Enterprises, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Contact Kurt Carr at:   or:    941.776.3830