Tacit Knowledge LO1979

Thu, 6 Jul 1995 22:22:07 -0400

Replying to LO1925, Emergent Learning

Subject: Proposed thread - Tacit Knowledge

Bernard Girard writes ....

> "How
>do you judge the value of the lanolin?" The ancient replied,
>showing how you plunge both hands deeply into the fleeces
>and roll the fibers between your finger as if you were judging
>the fabric of a suit, "Why, you just feel it."

>We all met these tacit knowledges in our private life (swimming, cycling)
>and in professional life (the knowledge of a good salesman is mostly
>tacit). How do we learn these tacit knowledges? can this education be
>improved? Can this knowledge be analysed? stored in a database?

I am in the process of attempting to understand tacit knowledge
simply from a personal standpoint. At varying times in my life I
have been good enough to consider professional lives in music
and later in bowling. In attempting to "teach" bowling to a couple
of folks, I too had to use the words - "you have to feel it."

Simply doing something, does not mean doing it well. I've only
been able to research 11 people in leadership positions to any
great extent over the past 10 years. Almost all of them DID similar
things - communications, planning, budgeting, rating people,
giving raises, making decisions, interacting with people on a
personal basis, etc, you name it.

All 11 appeared to be excellent leaders as judged by their
superiors. Five of the 11 had excellent group morale, improving
quality, productivity, and safety, and seemingly excellent
relationships with their superiors.

The other 6 had decent group morale and seemingly
excellent relationships with their superiors. The improve-
ments in quality, productivity, and safety either were non-
existent or crawled at a snails pace. In fact, I followed one
of these 6 in a management job. Productivity and quality
had been flat for three years during his tenure. 18 months
later, we had improved productivity 50 per cent and quality
complaints declined by a factor of three. This required
turning people on to shared learning and the addition
of about 6 per cent to the capital base.

My interviews with subordinates, peers, and superiors
of all 11 appear to show a pattern. The six who did
not "lead" their teams to improvement were more super-
ficial (distracted, not sincere) in the way they acted; their
very being. The five who led their teams to improvement
were deeper in their relationships with people. I state this
as a way of being, who they are. These 11 DID about the
same things. But, they were different in their BEING, in their
truly BEING present when interacting.

For instance: All 11 listened. Only 5 LISTENED with a real
individual presence. The people they led, those who make
or break a leader, all sensed this difference and responded in ways
they felt were appropriate.

I propose that much of what we miss about understanding leaders
and leadership resides in their "being" versus their doing. This is
what I have called the tacit side of leadership in previous postings
and in my attempted discussions in Dow over the past few years.

Nonaka discusses the tacit side of knowledge in a way I find
interesting and instructive. Can this type of thinking about
tacit knowledge be applied to leadership? I believe it can but
have found none of my work associates willing to give it time
for dialogue. Also have not found any research or writings
on this area, the tacit side, of leadership. Every person I have
talked with and all of the books I've read discuss "what a leader
does", not how they are - their presence. Do any of you know
of research or writings on this tacit side of leadership? How about
some postings on tacit leadership knowledge/behavior? I have an
abiding interest in how these tacit leadership traits/behaviors/
relationships correlate to improvement, morale, customer satisfaction,
innovation, and costs.

Have a great day!!

Dave Buffenbarger
Organizational Improvement Coach
(517) 638-7080
Dow Chemical Company