As the boss, you can’t possibly keep track of all of the knowledge necessary to run your organization — your head would explode. (Even micromanagers have to trust people to some degree.)
But if you’re a highly effective senior executive, cruising along at the 30,000-foot, big-picture strategy level, you have to ask yourself, “When people quit, how do I ensure the knowledge they have will not be lost?” That’s a problem that even rocket scientists at NASA struggle with, so you’re not alone.
Let’s say you started a new initiative a few years ago and assigned a team of three to it. All of them quickly become knowledge experts for the initiative. They are collaborating frequently, creating and sharing knowledge with each other, hitting their milestones, and making the initiative work. It hums along so smoothly that you begin putting more of your attention elsewhere. After all, the team is handling it without you and they are all cross-trained. You have a knowledge backup plan, so life is good, right?
Maybe. But people are a deeply flawed knowledge backup plan. Here’s why: