For those not familiar with the age-old classic of ‘whisper down the lane’, here is a refresher. Whisper down the lane is a game when someone whispers a phrase into someone’s ear and their job is to whisper it to someone else who then whispers it to someone else and so on. The more people there are the greater the chances of the message becoming altered during transmission. It’s a fun game that makes people laugh for hours—or days—depending on your sense of humor. Information passed down between generations is referred to as Tribal Knowledge; someone did something one way, then passed it on.
How does this relate to standards? Building standards around industry frameworks and best practices are essential to your customer’s technical alignment. Best practices are often provided by an authoritative or regulatory body, a vendor, or a third party. When a technician acquires them for the first time they naturally pass their knowledge along to the next person. Herein lies the problem.
When knowledge is transferred from one person to the next it is often altered—intentionally or unintentionally—causing the next in line to follow what was passed along to them. Eventually, the next person shares their knowledge with further alterations. Sometimes, these alterations are based on personal experience or opinion and will affect the outcome. An example of this is a family recipe that is passed down between generations. Every so often the recipe is altered due to available ingredients, improvements, or personal taste.
Best practices ultimately become fairy tales because they are so diluted from the actual account, making it vital to maintain a written Standards Library. I have personal experience with this type of situation. I worked with a technician who wanted to make sure a server I was ordering for a customer had a NIC with 4 Ethernet ports since the server was to be a Hyper-V host. Here is how the conversation went:
Technician: Be sure to order a 4 port NIC with that server.
Me: Why is that?
Technician: Because we need to assign each port to an individual virtual machine.
Me: Why is that?
Technician: Microsoft recommends it as a best practice.
Me: Did you read this or did someone tell you?
Technician: Someone told me it’s what is best.
It may be a Microsoft best practice, but it is a prime example of why not to transfer knowledge verbally. When it comes to standards, ensure you are referencing best practices provided by an authoritative or regulatory body, a vendor, or a third-party source. And write them down!