Protecting against loss of ‘organisational knowledge’ during the pandemic

I help businesses navigate some of the technical barriers they may encounter when growing - Axion Linkage

Covid-19 has been a major disruption to all businesses, however despite the lockdown and the safety net of the government JobKeeper program, some businesses have flourished in 2020. The pandemic has created numerous challenges for managers, particularly around staff – not only in providing operational coverage, but also the aspect of ‘organizational knowledge’ retention.

The ISO 9001 standard now (latest 2015 version) has its own section (7.1.6) dedicated to ‘organizational knowledge’. It is defined as “knowledge specific to the organization; it is generally gained by experience. It is information that is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives.”

As you would expect the ISO 9001 standard is structured around normal business and the pandemic disrupts everything that is normal. Having a certified ISO 9001 management system is one sure-fire way of protecting the business, however it is important to realize that there are still limitations with the standard, particularly as to the audience it is pitched to and whether the documentation contains sufficient detail (especially for a new incumbent).

With stand-downs and redundancies commonplace there is no guarantee that a business will rebound looking the same as before the lockdown. Staff may well decide upon a sea-change with many training programs on offer; may choose a job in another industry type; or may be picked up by a competitor.

The question then is, where does this leave your business?

Not all business requires the same level of ‘organizational knowledge’: some will require little, while others may be heavily dependent upon it.

We’re not through the pandemic yet; businesses already with ISO 9001 and without staff losses should count themselves incredibly fortunate, however this shouldn’t stop the documentation from being examined.

Business success is not contingent on having ISO 9001, but it helps and there are more than 10,500 businesses in Australia that have considered certification as an important step in their maturity.

The balancing act for business is capturing the knowledge in a manner that best serves the sustainability or growth of the business. Obvious ways of capturing ‘organizational knowledge’ is through procedural documentation (including manuals), checklists and / or training.

The ISO 9001 standard does not scrutinize ‘how knowledge is controlled’ or even the measure of ‘how effective it is’. Certainly, engaging a fresh set of eyes to examine the knowledge base can help.

I help businesses navigate some of the technical barriers they may encounter when growing - Axion Linkage