Friday, July 29, 2016

The Employer's Memory

As a management consultant, I often encounter people who wrestle with their organization's failure to preserve what is called organizational or institutional memory. Not surprisingly, this usually occurs where there has been a lot of turn-over, but the loss of just one key person can leave a big memory gap.

The analysis and perspective gained by past decisions are frequently lost. Sad is the day when people learn that they've been researching a matter that was thoroughly studied seven years ago.

Surface the idea of keeping the history of major decisions, however, and the confidentiality question quickly arises. "What if that leaks to our competitors?" "What if the newspapers get hold of that?" "What if it is used against us in a lawsuit?" The proposal rarely proceeds beyond such alarms.

I know attorneys who will argue that the fears are baseless and that adequate precautions can be taken. An acquaintance of mine is a historian for a large organization. Part of her job involves providing a perspective gained from knowing what was done earlier. 

This is one area where the arrival of the attorneys is a good sign. It means the idea is being taken seriously.

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