What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

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mrriggs
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What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Postby mrriggs » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:40 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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woody b
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Re: What is "Tribal Knowledge"?

Postby woody b » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:19 am

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"?

Postby joe 90 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:17 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"?

Postby pdq67 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:52 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"?

Postby pcnsd » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:07 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"?

Postby Kevin Johnson » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:12 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"?

Postby exhaustgases » Thu Aug 17, 2017 12:11 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"?

Postby joe 90 » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:25 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"?

Postby exhaustgases » Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:24 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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