Just like individuals, organizations can run short of memory. Hence, such a valuable resource should be preserved.
During the last decades, the economic climate has prompted organizations to review their strategies and ways of doing things. In order to maintain their market position, they strived to improve product quality at a competitive cost. Simultaneously, an increasing number of organizations have come to realize that human capital, just like other resources, has a significant economic value, particularly with regard to the amount of knowledge the employees possess. All that knowledge is now considered as a strategic resource that can help increase productivity and improve organizational performance.
The concepts of knowledge management and organizational memory stem from that understanding. Organizational memory is generally defined as the accumulated body of knowledge made of explicit and tacit knowledge in an entire organization.
Over the years, your staff accumulates knowledge and observations, acquires valuable expertise and know-how, and develops skills that make them more and more efficient in providing services to their clients and performing their tasks. This represents tacit knowledge, and often forms a great part of an organization’s operational wealth.
Explicit knowledge is represented by all hard or soft copy documents that can be archived (processes, projects, clients, service providers, etc.), shared through an information system and reused.
Organizational memory rests greatly upon undocumented experience, knowledge, insights and skills acquired over the years and passed to newcomers within an organization, either formally (meetings, trainings) or informally (personal contacts, mentoring relationships).
The Benefits of Preserving Organizational Memory
Most organizations keep in mind to document their processes. However, they forget too often that each employee possesses specific information about a client, for example, its preferred approach, or its particular history that needs to be considered. These pieces of information and the way they are used often make the difference between average business relationships and high quality ones.
The formal preservation of organizational memory offers many other benefits:
- Passing on experts’ know-how before they retire;
- Building on the experience gained from past projects (Learning Organization);
- Getting the big picture about staff overall skills and ensuring a better planning of market needs;
- Improving information flow and communication within the organization;
- Developing skills;
- Increasing employee engagement.
Resources (in French):
ROBERGE, Michel (2009). Assurer la pérennité de la mémoire organisationnelle pour la bonne gouvernance par la gestion intégrée des documents d’entreprise terminés et officiels en format papier et technologiques ayant une valeur administrative, juridique ou financière. Éd. Michel Roberge. Québec, Canada.
BEKHTI, Smaïn (2010). DyPKM – Un processus dynamique de modélisation et de réutilisation de mémoires de projets. Thèse de doctorat. Université de technologie de Troyes, France.