As a trainer and blogger I have a chance to talk to many engineers from various (telco) companies. And I can hear a lot of similar complains. “We’re just reinventing a wheel, over and over again.”, “I feel like an investigator – to find the right information/documentation is so painful.”, “R&D doesn’t want to share anything.”, “They are not answering to my questions, they’re just sending a lot of crap to keep me busy.”, etc. The common denominator is that companies don’t encourage engineers to work aloud and share their experience and knowledge. Why? So much effort and talent is wasted.. And by encouraging I mean also that they don’t provide the right tools (no, it’s not sharepoint) and managers don’t lead by their examples.
This can’t be fixed by any process or action points. It is about company/team culture. If managers treat engineers as “resources”, act as if they are more important, or if they say “we’re not at work to make friends” (and some are even so dump to share it on social networks), it is hard to imagine that others would willingly share their know-how. Yes, there can be some lessons-learn filled after project, some reports created – but honestly, what engineers read these documents??
Everyone knows that the most important information is shared over coffee or during lunch-breaks. The best tutorials, manuals, guides I’ve seen were always created by people, who did it from their own will, in their free time, on top of their daily duties, to help their brothers in arms. Because they are friends. Friends don’t regret to spend their time to help. It is a great difference if you are asked to provide some information to a friend sitting next to you, or someone who you have never seen from the other part of the world. Sure, professionals send the requested information. But maybe they don’t attach their opinion/experience. In big companies it is often even worse – either there is no information provided, or (very often!) there is a response (so no one can complain), but it doesn’t help at all. The message is clear – don’t disturb!
So managers please, help us to share. Sure, it is difficult to be a friend with everyone, but at least treat your employees as the best customers. Good engineers like the technology and are proud if they can contribute and be useful. They like to learn, share and grow. Give them the right tools, enough time and trust. Loyal geeks are then the true asset of company. With sharing start by yourself. Sure, the goal is not to overload people with manuals and disturb them from their work. Just use common sense (or ask). A good information is written and easy to find. Have someone to review it and keep only what is up2date. Be part of the team and don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty. Appreciate those who are doing more. If you think that in your business, in your company with your timelines you can’t do it, please find some other job.