People Innovation Excellence

The Management of Organizational Memory

by: Sevenpri Candra

Knowledge is the key asset of the knowledge organization (Conklin 2001). Organizational memory extends and amplifies this asset by capturing, organizing, disseminating, and reusing the knowledge created by its employees. Organizations routinely forget what they have done in the past and why they have done it. Ott and Shafritz (1994) coined the term “organizational incompetence” to refer to the lack of organizational capability to learn or as the antonym of organizational intelligence.

Organizational memory is not just a facility for accumulating and preserving, but also for sharing knowledge. A shared memory for the project team or a community of practice can create coherence within the mass of formal and informal project knowledge. This project memory is most naturally represented in the form of a web of information that includes facts, assumptions, constraints, decisions and their rationale, the meanings of key terms, and, of course, the formal documents themselves.

Other challenge for an effective organizational memory system is that for a system that includes informal knowledge that knowledge tends to lose its relevance, and thus its value, over time. The obstacles to an effective organizational memory system fall into two categories, cultural and technical. The cultural barriers include the following:

  • A cultural emphasis on artifacts and results to the exclusion of process
  • Resistance to knowledge capture because of the effort required, the fear of litigation, and the fear of loss of job security
  • Resistance to knowledge reuse because of the effort required, and the low likelihood of finding relevant knowledge

The technical barriers include:

  • How to make the knowledge capture process easy or even transparent
  • How to make retrieval and reuse easy or even transparent
  • How to ensure relevance and intelligibility (i.e., through sufficient context) of retrieved knowledge

The next step in the evolution of organizational memory is the use of a display system to focus knowledge workers on improving shared understanding and coherence in their project meetings, and capture the group ’ s information and knowledge in context and link it with the project’s formal products in an easy and natural way.


Kimiz Dalkir. (2011). Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice. The MIT Press

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