What's your Bus Quotient?

January 19, 2009

Posted in Management.

My brother wrecked my car in college

I’ve worked with dozens of clients who wrote custom software to meet their needs, only to have the developer quit and leave them with no idea how to maintain, improve, or fix the system. Or a passionate volunteer who got burned out left the organization in a lurch, struggling to keep up the momentum.

Bus quotient

Definition: The number of people you would have to lose (possibly being hit by a bus or other form of sudden, unforeseeable disaster) in order for business to be catastrophically disrupted.

Too often, the bus quotient is one. That’s a problem waiting to happen.

The people left behind suddenly have to pick up the slack, learn all the hard lessons again, and reinvent much of what one person did over the course of months or years. It disrupts the work they were focused on. It can kill momentum on everything else. The transition can be devastating, even destroying an organization.

Write it Down

You might be the only one who knows the system, knows your plan, knows the passwords – and that’s not good for the organization.

If you have specialized knowledge, document what you can. If you’re a social media marketer who writes a blog, built a network on Twitter, and manages a Facebook group – write that down. You don’t have to explain social media and everything that goes with it, but you should document the basics so someone find a qualified replacement.

Higher Quotient through Better Hiring

How you approach personnel is important, too. Create positions and then hire people into those, not the other way around. If you have team members who are doing work because it suits their skills (and not part of your organization’s strategy and a written position description), you’re more likely to be left with a position for which you cannot easily hire replacements. Write position descriptions for your staff and update often – make sure their jobs are documented.

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