Business continuity for truckload carriers: Capturing tribal knowledge

When it comes to business continuity for truckload carriers, many companies don’t know where to start. It should  start with tribal knowledge.

Tribal knowledge can be a real plus when it comes to day-to-day operations. But it’s also a significant liability if your key tribal knowledge holders are out sick for more than a couple of days or, worse yet, leave the company, leaving you swinging in the wind.

What exactly is tribal knowledge, and why is it critical to business continuity for truckload carriers?

According to, tribal knowledge is information about a product, service, or process that resides only in one or more employees’ minds. The undocumented information may vary between employees and may or may not be the most efficient way of performing the work (it may not even be an effective or correct way to perform work).

According to the definition, tribal knowledge also infers that multiple employees likely perform the work differently, based on their version of tribal knowledge.

Unfortunately, with missing resident experts or undocumented, inconsistent processes, you risk losing important information forever. Worse, your employees may just waste person-hours seeking out the resident expert or simply make it up as they go along, creating unpredictable results.

Six steps to capturing tribal knowledge

To avoid tribal knowledge pitfalls, many organizations aim to document their knowledge in one centralized place using management techniques and tools to capture valuable information. This is key to business continuity for truckload carriers. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Identify tribal knowledge holders–generally employees who have been part of your organization for the longest. Or perhaps they have worked on products and systems that aren’t even in use anymore. Or they may be using tools and practices that are no longer taught but might still be helpful in an emergency or unique circumstances.
  2. Next, you’ll want to determine what knowledge your tribal knowledge leaders hold. Although the ideal situation is to document tribal knowledge as you go along, as you begin your process, you may need to “siphon” it out of your experienced employees’ heads–or even out of your head–for future use.
  3. Begin to document the tribal knowledge as you go–a responsibility that resides with both management and individual employees. Valuable techniques for codifying and saving tribal knowledge include narrating thoughts and processes during work, keeping notes via apps on your phone, recording information, and writing down ideas and processes. Documents will be easily shareable, scannable, and searchable. It’s a good idea to quickly document anything relevant and leave the document in a rough state, if necessary, improving it as you go.
  4. Consider an easy-to-use knowledge management platform that connects to your current systems and is integrated into email or Slack, enabling you to import your existing content and keep your formatting. This technique will allow you to make documenting how-tos and need-to-knows common practice and avoid singling anyone out. And employees will naturally provide the knowledge you might not even know they have or that you needed to know.
  5. When your team asks you a question, ask them to check existing documentation first. And as you capture tribal knowledge, start rolling it out to your team. Start by introducing the information into your existing training program; then have team members with longer tenure go back through training.
  6. You’ll also benefit when you incentivize knowledge sharing. You can do this by actively celebrating your successful documentation and processes. Or give bonuses to employees who capture a certain amount of tribal knowledge per quarter (a move you can then measure via standard operating procedures).

Business continuity for truckload carriers will also be facilitated by from moving beyond Excel spreadsheets into a transportation management system (TMS). A TMS like LoadOps will help your entire company keep information and documentation in one place–from customer/shipping addresses to invoices to quotes and more—keeping you up and running. For example, if your transport manager leaves, the new person will be up to speed after a few days of training, beginning to build loads, schedule trucks, and ship orders.

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