I’ve come across a few examples recently where people either have, or have nearly, re-invented something that already existed in an organisation.
This can be termed “re-inventing the wheel”. Clearly, such activities would be a waste of resources, but what was the nature of the problems, and how could they be avoided? The first case related to a company who develop specialist medical appliances and asked a consultant to develop a new piece of technology for them. This consultant had previously developed exactly the technology being requested, for this same company around 15 years ago. Successive re-organisations and four different Managing Directors over this time period meant the awareness of this development had been lost.
The second case relates to a client who is responsible for ensuring that a contractor on a major project fulfils the sponsor’s requirements. In this case the contractor had spent three weeks creating a 50 page maintenance plan (which is still not complete) but had not based it upon the previously agreed maintenance strategy. This has resulted in a duplication of work and a high risk that, when the plan is being reviewed, it will be found not to comply with the maintenance strategy.
In addition I have, like many of you, come across employees who have recreated parts of corporate IT systems using spreadsheets which can create endless data quality problems.
With current imperatives to increase efficiency and reduce wastage, no organisation can afford either to have resources that they have paid for which are not being exploited, or to develop things which either partly, or fully exist already. If you do recreate something which already exists, then you are running a risk that anyone who knows of this could accuse you of wasting time and resources.
So what easy steps can be used to avoid re-inventing the wheel?
- Before creating a new deliverable or technology, ask yourself if something similar is likely to exist already. If so, ask your colleagues whether they know where such a thing exists
- If an existing system or technology does not do quite what you require, enquire about the development plans – you may be looking for something which is already planned for delivery
- Do searches of your document management system, intranet, shared folders etc. to look for related or similar documents
- When you do create a new deliverable or technology, ensure that it is publicised appropriately (a spinoff is that your input is also publicised)
- Ensure that any information deliverables (reports, policies, designs) are stored in your corporate document management system. Most importantly, ensure that they are named and referenced correctly to allow easy retrieval
- Ensure that you have effective knowledge transfer mechanisms in place for when reorganisations take place, or when someone leaves the organisation – which is a good practice to have in place anyway
- Above all, talk to those who may have greater insight into what already exists
What techniques would you suggest?