Tuesday, December 13, 2022

When Institutional Memory Walks Out the Door


"What was the reasoning behind the adoption of that program? Were any alternatives considered? I'd like to know if there was any discussion of potential problems."

[Blank stares.]

"No one knows?"

"Ed and Charlotte probably would have known but Ed retired and Charlotte left five years ago for a job in Santa Fe."

"Nothing has been jotted down anywhere?"

"No. If there were any questions, we just asked Ed or Charlotte."

"I hope we can reach them."


Dan in Philly said...

The term I've always used for such things is tribal memory. One of the goals is to convert tribal memory into institutional memory through documentation. Tribal memory vanishes when the tribe member who has it leaves.

Michael Wade said...


Tribal memory is catchy and may be more appealing.

In general, I think that the one road block to anticipate is the Legal Department. They may see such documents as evidence that would be used by plaintiffs.

That, however, is an objection that can be overcome with safeguards.

An added approach is to ask people who've been with the organization for some time to record their memories of various programs/events while paying particular attention to the little but important lessons learned.

All in all, a subject deserving more attention.