Apprenticeships, academia, learning experience or the knowledge someone possesses will alter their job performance. If you hire a black cab taxi in London, the driver’s in-depth knowledge of the back streets is amazing. It is because they complete ‘The Knowledge‘ test. Quite simply, the better informed someone is, the better decisions they make. It helps in reaching a destination quicker.

Competitive Advantage

Jack Welch once said ‘if you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete’. Bill Gates said ‘the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information’. It takes me back to my earlier career in mechanical engineering. A new job for a maker of electrical enclosures, saw me upgrading an old product.

The product wasn’t overly complex. It was a steel cabinet containing electrical circuits, operating an automatic lighthouse. The technical part was ensuring the cabinet’s IP rating. This protects it against the elements of a hostile environment. The previous engineer resigned, so I was left to gather the data from the old model by myself. Then it was time to implement changes.

Fundamental Learning

The first issue arose when retrieving the engineering drawings. Various CAD (computer aided design) systems were employed. The details were on individual computers, rather than a server. It meant information was outdated, misplaced and incomplete. The second issue was the manufacturing process. The shop floor staff overcame issues but kept the (drawings and) solutions in their toolboxes.

The next issue was the philosophy of the Manager. He was insistent drawings were complete quickly. The shop floor staff then had more time to correct mistakes. The Japanese philosophy of ‘right first time’ rang so true. He simply missed the benefit an extra day of planning in the design office would bring.

The Real Advantage

The lesson I learned from this organization was, technology is just an aid. If the knowledge is absent at a basic level, nothing will fall in to place. Likewise for management principles. Jack Welch always advocated the real competitive advantage, of any organization, was its team. The right people will always perform better. With the addition of an effective information system they will shine.