What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

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mrriggs
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What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by mrriggs » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:40 am

This is the second time this week that I heard the term "tribal Knowledge". Some hot-shot straight-out-of-college engineer was grilling me on why I didn't open a formal investigation on a failed leak-up rate test of a vacuum heat treat furnace. I tried explaining to him that there was nothing to investigate because the cause of the failed test had nothing to do with leaks. He had no concept of vacuum heat treat or the purpose of leak-up tests. He went off on some rant accusing me of purposely withholding "tribal knowledge" because I didn't have this lengthy explanation written down so he could look it up without asking me. Then he said, "Someday, you are going to be gone. How am I expected to do your job if you hold on to all this tribal knowledge?"

As far as I can tell, what he is calling "tribal knowledge" is what would traditionally be know as job experience. I have the knowledge because I started on the floor and worked for a decade as an operator before moving to the quality department. There is no way that anybody could document every aspect of the job so that some snot-nosed rookie can start at the top of the field.

I can see where a loss of "tribal knowledge" is a real concern for most industries. But the problem isn't that the old guys aren't writing it down, it's that the young guys aren't willing to start at the bottom and put in their dues to learn it.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by woody b » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:19 pm

I've never heard that term. I used to work with a guy that, when some young kid asked him a question about how to do something he'd say "if you want to do that you'll have to do what I did......Learn"
I used to be a people person, but people ruined it.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by joe 90 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:17 pm

It's because he can't look it up on google.

You get a lot of that sort of thing when you're working with young fellas.
They try to make out that they know a lot when they don't.


I've worked with young fellas, try to make out that you're wrong because you disagree with google.
I'm working with older fellas these days, I'm nearly the youngest.
Far better in every way.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by pdq67 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:52 pm

I used to tell the crew that I was training that it was NOT that I wanted stuff done my way.

But rather my way works for me so if you have an easier/better way to do what we have to do, tell me quick so I can do it easier and better too!

It worked for me!

I did get sand-bagged by a young, "shithead", once in a Steel Mill. He tried to plug my machine so he could run off and have a longer break! Didn't work because I stopped them from running off and unplugged my machine while they were standing around watching me.

The next time that I was in that shop, the Boss came by and said, "You know that young kid that tried to mess with you last time, well here he comes!".

The young guy walked up to me and said that they let him go for about 6 to 9 months for an attitude adjustment and boy was he glad to be back making STEEL MILL WAGES again!

The Boss said, "Right, the kid got to where he wouldn't do what he was told so we let him go! You see how he's changed?"...

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by pcnsd » Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:07 am

Tribal knowledge is what is learned by doing or working on a process or plant that is at variance with expected results. It is that given by experience. If you have worked at the same location for more than 10 years...You have tribal knowledge. It is worth something when you retire. Remember that you lose 50% to taxes under a 1099. What ever you think is fair... double it. There is a story I know you have heard that ends with a detailed invoice for an engine repair on a large ship.

1. Tapping on the pipe with a hammer: $1.00
2. Knowing where to tap: $10,000

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by Kevin Johnson » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:12 pm

When I worked and studied in the dental industry (70s, 80s) I spent ages quizzing my Grandfather about his experiences (starting in the 1920s) and those of the masters in his guild going back into the 1800s. I also tried gathering every formal text I could find on the subject while studying it in college (gathering, for example, the Air Force, Army, and Navy Manuals from the GPO as well as academic and industry texts). I also quizzed the elderly (and at that point in their career, retired) instructors at the college in the same way that I interviewed my Grandfather. I also spent time in laboratories in Germany. So that covered the United States, England and Germany.

Needless to say, there is an incredible amount of knowledge within an industry that is not written down and is lost from generation to generation even amongst those who have put in their dues and spent their entire careers in an industry. Simply put, the time has long since passed when one person could absorb and reliably retain/recall this amount of information/knowledge. When young engineers need to be sent to museum collections to backwards engineer NASA products because the info was not written down or recorded in a retrievable fashion then you know there is a serious issue.

I guess that could be termed "Tribal Knowledge".

I also studied cognitive psych and ran subjects through memory tests. I remember being amused that the ones who thought they had really nailed it often scored the worst. The affirmation and negation of a topic are very closely associated in memory. Be careful. Pilots run through check lists because people have given their lives to show it is needed.

Back to work...

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by exhaustgases » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:11 am

It is some process or job that a few old timers know how to do. And there is no documentation explaining the process or job. So only the Tribe knows it. In some machine shops its rampant. As a new person it makes the job next to impossible, especially if there is special fixturing and tool holders or cutting tools, and zero information on what to use to do the setup and operations.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by joe 90 » Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:25 am

It's a bit like stating that EFI injectors are commonly rated in CC per minute.

Anyone can google that.


How many people have first hand experience flow testing EFI injectors?
But everyone is some sort of expert?


What if someone came along and said...........that only works with the correct test fluid.
If you test with petrol, you'll get x flow, ethanol, Y flow and methanol, Z flow.......all different.

Injectors are also rated in pounds per hour.
Factor in the SG to the flow rate.
But it still works out different.

That might be tribal knowledge?

How about spray pattern?
Well that changes with PW.




Then all the experts out there (wannabes)...........you get them all upset.
"cos they've got no idea.
An injector is an injector and it flows what the manufacturer says it flows.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by exhaustgases » Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:24 am

joe 90 wrote:It's a bit like stating that EFI injectors are commonly rated in CC per minute.

Anyone can google that.


How many people have first hand experience flow testing EFI injectors?
But everyone is some sort of expert?


What if someone came along and said...........that only works with the correct test fluid.
If you test with petrol, you'll get x flow, ethanol, Y flow and methanol, Z flow.......all different.

Injectors are also rated in pounds per hour.
Factor in the SG to the flow rate.
But it still works out different.

That might be tribal knowledge?

How about spray pattern?
Well that changes with PW.




Then all the experts out there (wannabes)...........you get them all upset.
"cos they've got no idea.
An injector is an injector and it flows what the manufacturer says it flows.
Yeah not at all the same as the old school jerk pump injectors on CI engines.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by stealth » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:27 pm

It's a derogatory term used in lean training. As there should be clear direction and a standard operating procedure in writing (documentation) the tribal knowledge is a term used for non documentation and no standard operating procedures.

Hand me down type training...might be good...might be bad... no one really knows as there isn't a formal or STANDARD operating procedure...no documentation....

Allows for questionable quality and performance...
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by enigma57 » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:31 am

mrriggs wrote:This is the second time this week that I heard the term "tribal Knowledge". Some hot-shot straight-out-of-college engineer was grilling me on why I didn't open a formal investigation on a failed leak-up rate test of a vacuum heat treat furnace. I tried explaining to him that there was nothing to investigate because the cause of the failed test had nothing to do with leaks. He had no concept of vacuum heat treat or the purpose of leak-up tests. He went off on some rant accusing me of purposely withholding "tribal knowledge" because I didn't have this lengthy explanation written down so he could look it up without asking me. Then he said, "Someday, you are going to be gone. How am I expected to do your job if you hold on to all this tribal knowledge?"

As far as I can tell, what he is calling "tribal knowledge" is what would traditionally be know as job experience. I have the knowledge because I started on the floor and worked for a decade as an operator before moving to the quality department. There is no way that anybody could document every aspect of the job so that some snot-nosed rookie can start at the top of the field.

I can see where a loss of "tribal knowledge" is a real concern for most industries. But the problem isn't that the old guys aren't writing it down, it's that the young guys aren't willing to start at the bottom and put in their dues to learn it.
=D> Well said! I believe you have defined this newly minted buzzword and the implications of its application quite succinctly!

Interestingly, I found this psycho-babble nonsense online this evening......

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Stage 1: A person at Stage 1 is usually alienated by the world of them. Around 2% of professionals are at this stage. People at Stage 1 take shotguns to work. Tribes at Stage 1 are reminiscent of prisons in culture.

Stage 2: A person at Stage 2 is constantly complaining, wondering “Why me?” Dave refers to this stage as the “ghetto of corporate despair. Around 25% of workplaces operate at this stage. According to the model, Dilbert is at Stage 2.

Stage 3: A person at Stage 3 is all about “Me! Me! Me!”. Knowledge is power and they hoard it and keep it for themselves. A whopping 49% of workplaces are at Stage 3.

Stage 4: Individuals and tribes are value-driven at Stage 3. Around 22% of workplaces make up Stage 4. Interesting fact: people at Stage 4 require a common enemy against whom the tribe focuses in order to be better. Reminds me of classic James Bond movies where Bond needs baddies in order to be a goodie.

Stage 5: A person at Stage 5 “makes history”. People at Stage 5 take full responsibility for their words and actions. They are driven by leadership, vision and inspiration. Around 2% of workplaces make up Stage 5. Graduates begin at Stage 5 and usually regress to lower stages.
\:D/ Reminds me of Dilbert......

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Best regards,

Harry

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by mekilljoydammit » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:29 am

I think a lot of this got covered, but one extra tidbit.

Tribal knowledge is anything that stands in the way of being able to swap any new hire with roughly the right skill set into any position. The ultimate goal of modern management is to eliminate any form of tribal knowledge, get every single detail needed to do anything set down in procedures, so that you can dispense with all these expensive "experienced" people - either fire them or stop giving them raises/promotions/any reason to stick around - and replace them with nice cheap fresh meat, or better yet just ship the procedures and equipment out to somewhere else to do the job.

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by PackardV8 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:51 am

There are many ways this works:

A good employee can and should be expected to teach/train anyone willing to learn. Sharing knowledge and experience should be a learning experience for the teacher. One of the greatest crew chiefs I ever knew said, "I can give 'em everything I know and then beat them with the new stuff I figured out while I was teaching why and how I do what I do."

Then, there's the witch doctor/tribal knowledge approach which requires a supplicant to drink bitter herbs, spend time in the wilderness, submit to humiliations, have his body painted and only then can he be considered worthy to be given the lore a small piece at a time. Listen to some of the old guys talk about hazing the new guys in the bad old days.
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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by pdq67 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:22 am

mekilljoydammit wrote:I think a lot of this got covered, but one extra tidbit.

Tribal knowledge is anything that stands in the way of being able to swap any new hire with roughly the right skill set into any position. The ultimate goal of modern management is to eliminate any form of tribal knowledge, get every single detail needed to do anything set down in procedures, so that you can dispense with all these expensive "experienced" people - either fire them or stop giving them raises/promotions/any reason to stick around - and replace them with nice cheap fresh meat, or better yet just ship the procedures and equipment out to somewhere else to do the job.
Isn't this what both, "ISO 9000 and ISO 14000", was supposed to do?

I think that until both of them came along, you couldn't ship whole factories to 3rd world countries and then make them work...

You had to have it documented how to do something and then make sure management knew how to do it!! These two have pretty-much decimated us as a manufacturing country, them and cheaper 3rd world LABOR!!

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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Post by pdq67 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:23 am

mekilljoydammit wrote:I think a lot of this got covered, but one extra tidbit.

Tribal knowledge is anything that stands in the way of being able to swap any new hire with roughly the right skill set into any position. The ultimate goal of modern management is to eliminate any form of tribal knowledge, get every single detail needed to do anything set down in procedures, so that you can dispense with all these expensive "experienced" people - either fire them or stop giving them raises/promotions/any reason to stick around - and replace them with nice cheap fresh meat, or better yet just ship the procedures and equipment out to somewhere else to do the job.
Isn't this what both, "ISO 9000 and ISO 14000", was supposed to do?

I think that until both of them came along, you couldn't ship whole factories to 3rd world countries and then make them work...

You had to have it documented how to do something and then make sure management knew how to do it!! These two have pretty-much decimated us as a manufacturing country, them and cheaper 3rd world LABOR!!

pdq67

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