Somewhere buried deep within every company is a ‘company historian’. It is amazing how many times companies will repeatedly attempt to do the same thing, each time getting the same results. It is important to discover these historians and to get acquainted. They know exactly how many times the company has tried different strategies and the results of each attempt. They know the lessons learned. Usually, the lessons learned are not exposed to your leadership perhaps because these ‘historians’ hold positions that don’t communicate with senior leadership.
Find the company historians. They will have been at the company for a number of years. They will be in positions where they can fly under the radar. Your goal is to befriend them and extract components of their knowledge and information, using it to ensure the success of your organization. Knowledge is power.
Companies will often repeat the same mistakes, each time, a few years in between will mark enough time for a new set of senior leaders to emerge who are unaware of the past decisions. There is nothing wrong with trying the same plan twice, it just makes more sense to research the reason that the plan didn’t succeed the first time.
Once you have tapped into the resources of the company historians, you will be equipped with the knowledge of past successes and failures. You can delicately use this information to help guide your boss and the senior leaders of the company toward better decisions and better outcomes. Offer consultative assistance.
This can help you tremendously if you are new to the company. It can be your key to solving the most difficult problems. You can use several data points to guide you to great solutions. The data points to evaluate are as follows:
- What history exists about the topic/problems/solutions?
- Has it ever caused the company to lose business?
- Have solutions been created that no one would approve?
- Have customers solved it without the company’s assistance?
- Is there documentation anywhere on the topic within the company?
- Is there documentation anywhere on the topic outside of the company?
These data points, and the meetings with company historians will give you a chance to rummage through information and find the priceless pieces. You will then be able to apply these pieces of information upward as opportunities allow. This can help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your company. Always acknowledge the source of the data, but having the big picture and knowing the past missteps will help you to build your brand and possibly move into leadership or expand your leadership responsibilities. The opportunities are limitless.
by Bethany Williams