Single Point of Failure

I am the single point of failure for my organization.

There is no one else in the organization that can do my job. There is no one else who can step up and take up the slack or fill my absence.

What happens when I get sick?
What happens when I go on vacation?
What happens when I leave the organization?

What is the backup plan for any of these scenarios? There isn’t a backup plan. If I am not in the office, manning the phone and email inbox, those emails and calls go unanswered. Or fall to people who cannot help.

A good friend recently told me,

“All you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.”

We often talk about backups for data. I preach that if it doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist. But what about people? Where are the backups for people?

It’s great that you work hard job and have a set of specialized knowledge. Who else has that knowledge? It’s wonderful that I’m an expert on a certain application? Who else can I share this knowledge with? Who else can I teach? Where can I write what I know so my knowledge becomes institutional knowledge.

When I call out sick or when I move on to another job, what happens to my expertise? Where does what I know go?

If it’s lost, that’s a terrible blow to the organization where I worked. If I’m out sick and no one else can pick up the slack that’s a terrible blow.

People need backups just like data. Where are the single points of failure in your support network?

How can you tell where those spots are? Listen to what people say. Do you hear things like this?
“We can’t do that, we need Bob here for it.”
Tim is the only know who knows how this machine works.
Make a note of that. Those are the people you need to back up.

Encourage Bob and Tim share their knowledge. They need to train others on the machinery or in the systems Bob and Tim know. They don’t need to become experts overnight, but they need to start.

Even better than training someone, write things down. Start a wiki. Write document. Share it. Put it somewhere safe. Also be sure to back that up.

You know what’s worse than not having any documentation? Having documentation locked away on someone’s computer. Make sure the documentation lives somewhere accessible within the organization. If Bob leaves then IT wiped his computer and all his notes were there, it’s just as bad as never writing any of it down.