Friday, April 24, 2015

Key Man Theory, heard of it?

Sometime in the past decades I read about a management idea called the "Key Man Theory". Of course, I can't recall where and when, but it stuck in my brain ever since. In essence, it states that if the success of your business operation or project is heavily dependent on one person, with unique knowledge or skills, you have a huge risk to mitigate. In less sensitive times someone might ask "what happens to us if Dick (or Jane) walk out of the office and get hit by a bus? are we screwed?". The nicer way of saying it now is "what happens if Dick/Jane win the lottery?". Either way, the risk is the same; things could go bad quickly.

This in the same idea as the financial product called key person insurance, but that may not be what you want to fall back on. It is good to avoid poverty if your business fails, but what if you love your business and want to actually save it? In this case the mitigation techniques are to reduce your dependence on the key man (OK, person) by looking to hire similar people, or start some knowledge transfer from Dick and Jane to other people in the organization. Dick/Jane may not be thrilled with this --- being the key person certainly gives leverage when asking for more money or other things --- but you have to do something about this situation; being empathetic and supportive of the key person will help. In the end, when they do leave/retire, they will have felt valued and may have enjoyed passing on their knowledge to the younger folk..

 So, I was drafting some thoughts on another post to come, which refers to the theory.  I thought I would make use of web searches to find some source info or references to use and, to my surprise, my searches found nothing... nada.  So question for everyone: do you remember 'Key Man Theory'? And if so, do you know what happened to it?

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About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.