Monday, January 21, 2008

Institutional Memory

The recent version of the film National Treasure surfaced the tantalizing thought that there is a book containing secrets known only to the presidents of the United States.

If only a mild version of such a book existed in most organizations. Rather than continually relearning what should be institutional knowledge, executives and managers should consider the following:

  • Keeping a departmental log of important presentations to boards, councils, and key decision makers so future presenters will know which issues were surfaced, the types of questions that were asked, and which decision makers had special concerns;

  • Creating and updating a book of how significant challenges were overcome by individuals or groups (one example: sales reps who described how they dealt with customer objections or problems);

  • Writing an annual history of the department's key accomplishments and setbacks complete with analyses of what was done well and what should have been handled differently; and

  • Having departing executives, managers, professionals, and technicians write an account of the lessons they learned on the job and tips they would give to their successors.

Would such accounts be sanitized? Sure. But they'd contain enough substance to be of real assistance and it is ridiculous that such accounts aren't more common.

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