The preservation of corporate know-how is of critical importance to the company for maintaining and enhancing its competitiveness in the marketplace. Corporate knowhow comes in many types and forms. Certain documentable knowledge, such as patents, published memoranda, operational manuals, and troubleshooting guides, is easy to save. Others, such as insights related to procedures or perfected ways of designing the specific products and services of the company, may require extra efforts to preserve. Managers should plan to systematically capture, retain, and widely disseminate such know-how to maximize its use within the company. Certain other cognitive knowledge is typically retained mentally by the experts. Managers need to find effective ways to induce such experts to willingly externalize this tacit knowledge for use by others in the company.
Problem-solving expertise is yet another type of corporate know-how worth preserving. Typically, engineering managers are busy resolving conflicts that may arise from disagreements in task priorities, personality conflicts, customer complaints, interpretation of data, and other conflicts. Managers need to solve these problems promptly. They should be mentally prepared to jump from one task to another to handle such time-sensitive issues. What should be planned under these circumstances is the preservation of the learning experience garnered from each incident so that the company will become more efficient in solving similar problems in the future.
Engineering managers should plan to devote their efforts to proactively pursue certain other tasks. These tasks include
- • Utilizing new technologies to simplify and enhance the products and services of the company.
- • Creating business networks and searching for partners to form mutually beneficial alliances.
- • Offering new or enhanced services to customers (e.g., self-service, an information- on-demand system, and an Internet-based inquiry center).
- • Initiating new programs to promote healthy customer relationships.
- • Developing novel products/services with distinguishable attributes (e.g., product customization to serve customers better, cheaper, and faster).
- • Reengineering and simplifying specific operational processes to increase efficiency.
- • Outsourcing specific tasks to augment cost-effectiveness and to reduce time to market.