Queen Bee – lessons from a crisis

South African online news site IOL reports the South Africa Municipal Workers Union’s (Samwu) ‘uproar’ over Cape Town managers’ salary hikes given the city’s water situation. But there’s something further down the column that caught our eye.

Samwu metro regional secretary Xolile Ncayo also complained that the city had brought back retirees as consultants in the Water and Sanitation Department six months after they had taken pension. Ncayo said: ‘Any company worth its salt knows there should be a succession plan wherein experts in that field will transfer skills to the next in line.’

But is it about skills? It surely isn’t that the younger generation lacks the talent or capacity for hard work, in spite of the grumblings of some old timers. It may just be that knowledge and experience are particularly valuable.

In an analogue world, knowing how something was designed, whether it worked or not, what went wrong, how it was fixed, are all valuable pieces of information that are typically retained in the minds of people. In some water companies, there is just one person who is the repository of the history of the entire network. They are treated like a sage and consulted for their wisdom. They are referred to as the ‘Queen Bee.’

This issue won’t be addressed by a succession plan. It will be addressed by an approach to corporate knowledge that ensures that this information is captured electronically and shared widely. A newcomer will be at no disadvantage with such a system in place.

i2O’s solutions increasingly enable this sort of information to be captured and reviewed, reducing reliance on the memory of old timers, and enabling them to enjoy their retirement.