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Issue 23

Gogu and the water bottle

Simona Bonghez
Speaker, trainer and consultant
MANAGEMENT

Gogu leisurely screwed the cap on the water bottle, made sure it is well sealed, screwed it once more, which was completely useless, but it was obvious he was doing all that while his mind was wandering elsewhere. Misu saw he was thoughtful and probably thought it was the best opportunity to pick on him, as it had been long since they had a verbal fight and he didn"t want to lose touch:

"Hoo, brrrr…" he said quite loudly, staring at Gogu. But he didn"t react, so, Misu repeated it, this time even more loudly:

"Hooo, brrr…. stop it!" He was disappointed he was completely ignored by Gogu and, somewhat at a loss, he looked for support from his colleagues. He noticed that everyone was looking at him curiously and an idea occurred to him:

"So, you"ve heard me, but you do not deign to grumble out a reply. Isn"t that a sign of lack of respect? Why are you doing this, Gogu?"

"Three times Hip and once Hooray, that"s why," replied Gogu, but couldn"t help smiling. For the Workers" Day, the 1st of May, or - to be more specific - to give you the chance to use sophisticated words, to twist your tongue… what was it? To deign?!"

"Well, I"m glad you"re a smart one, and nothing twists in your brain," Misu burst, but kept calm, without any trace of anger. "But there"s nothing to twist," he added more silently; then, he suddenly asked what he actually wanted to know:

"Tell us, where were your thoughts wandering, "cause you seemed gone… And that is something we cannot afford right now, after Dan"s unexpected leave."

"Yes, that"s what I was thinking about. His departure shatters us a bit; he was the only one who knew all the ins and outs of this new project. And there is nothing documented; all the experience from the previous projects is locked up in his mind… and that"s about it. Well, we may find something left in the Inbox/ Outbox, but it cannot help us too much. What good is it to gather experience if you cannot share it with the others? I mean, how can it help the organization, "cause it"s obvious it helps you, on the personal level."

"What is it that helps or doesn"t help, guys? What are you talking about?" As usually, Chief had appeared without anyone noticing him.

"Chief, you"ve got to stop these undercover entrances, without letting us know…"

"Well, all right, next time I"ll wear some bells. Tell me, what"s the trouble?"

"There is no trouble, Chief, we were just thinking…"

"I was thinking, that is", pointed out Gogu.

"You and me, that"s us," Misu went on, untroubled. "How can you keep the experience and knowledge acquired in the previous projects, within the department, or the company?"

"Oh, I see you"ve talked to Dan"s team but didn"t get much."

"We got a little, but not many palpable things. The problem is that each one of them is now involved in other projects, Dan has left, and we have no document to help us. It"s as if we have to start from scratch again."

Gogu grumbled, displeased:

"It"s a little annoying. We have all sweated our guts out and we will continue to sweat our guts out. No matter what you"ll say, Chief, this sounds like something stupid…"

"It"s not stupid, Gogu; it is a sign we are evolving and we want to do things in a better way. We have encountered a problem, let"s solve it: let"s see what we can do with the acquired knowledge. Of course, they belong to the person who is working and going through certain situations. They are personal experiences which, in time, help the one who acknowledges and understands them - to become better and better, to become more competent. The company also becomes better and better, as it is seen as the sum of individual skills. Along with the growth of the company, it will want - as we do right now - to lock as much of the experience thus gained, so as to no longer depend on each individual, taken separately."

"Let"s do it then," Gogu jumped to conclusion. "What"s stopping us?"

"Hooo, brrr…", Misu chopped in. "It isn"t that simple, Gogu. Tell me, can you ride a bike?"

"Your neurons are riding bikes; none of them has stayed at home. What"s the big idea with the bikes, now?"

"Can you or can"t you? Answer me."

"Yes, I can."

"Well, then, explain in written how you do that, especially the part where you maintain your balance and I promise eating the document," concluded Misu, victoriously.

"To eat", Gogu corrected him, but meanwhile he had put on his thinking cap. He could, obviously, describe how you get on the bike, how you get off the bike, how you get up after having fallen…

"Eating, to eat, whatever. Well, can you explain it or not?"

"What, then? Do we just give up?" Gogu was confused, looking towards Chief for support.

"Precisely, if things had been simpler, we would have solved them long ago, right? Knowledge and experience are like water, if you do not bottle it, it leaks out. Our problem is to find the bottle in which to collect this water," Chief laughed. "In part, we have solved that: we have the project plans, we have the progress reports which often help us in the following projects, too. What is now left is to see how we can bottle the bike riding. But this is neither easy to explain, nor are the people willing to do it. After all, this is what differentiates them, and the "bottling" makes them easier to replace."

"Hmm, the thought is not very nice"… Gogu was thinking aloud, but he quickly added: "from the point of view of the individual."

"Which means we need to find the compromise solution to help both the company and the individual. The successful companies have solved that, we"ve got to solve that, too. As I was saying, Gogu, it is a matter of evolution, not something stupid."

"Yes, it would be stupid to leave it like that and find ourselves in the same situation next time…"

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