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Organizational Memory: Meaning, Strategy & Importance

The individual’s ability to obtain, keep, and recover the knowledge is nothing but the standard traditional memory. If the business applies this concept, it goes beyond an individual capability. For this particular reason, organizational memory comes into action to quickly store and retrieve knowledge and information.

Any organizational definition would need to deal with the different repositories to store and retrieve the more formal records and tacit and embedded knowledge. As per the academy of management review, mentor-protégé relationships provide an optimum solution in delivering the individuals more success.



What is Organizational Memory?

In the year 1991, Walsh and Ungson worked together to understand the process behind the organizational memory. They initiated with the collective decision-making interpretations, typically evolve as a part of a corporate whole that remains active even after an employee has left the firm.

In response, organizational memory can fetch, store, and share knowledge and data among the network. As a human being, memory means to gain, store, and retrieve the human data. In other words, it refers to companies or industries that have a group of people that work together to work on their tasks and activities.

Apart from organizational memory, there exists an institutional memory or corporate memory. It uses three basic terms interchangeably that consist of information, mainly information of value for re-use.

Importance of Organizational Memory

Organizational memory suits the best for the organization as it contains undocumented insights, high-level experience, technical skills, and knowledge obtained over time. So, with the help of meetings and conferencing through various personal or business contacts, such information is available to the staff to a great extent.

Usually, there are two central repositories in organizational or corporate memory.

  • Organization’s archives
  • Memories of individual people

The term archives contain an organization’s electronic databases.

Organizational memory typically affects repeated layoffs, employee weakening, disasters, minimizing the company’s operating costs, and excessive company trimming. The information available in the history of an organization typically influence the active organization’s decision.

Just as a human has memory, the organizations have memories that provide an optimum solution for not repeating the same mistakes. Generally, the brain is the one place that normal humans keep their memories. But in the case of corporate memory, it exists in multiple locations.

Three Stages of Organizational Memory

Stages of Organizational Memory
The three stages of the corporate memory process play a vital role in an organization’s learning process. Acquisition, Retention, and Retrieval.

  1. Acquisition

    Based on past decisions, organizational memory contains the assembled data or information for future purposes. However, industries typically do not store this information centrally; but they keep it across multiple confinement facilities.

    Once the employee decides to deal with the evaluation consequences, they simply add some of the consequences data directly to corporate memory.

  2. Retention

    Usually, there are five repositories where organizations or individuals directly retain information specifically related to past experiences and various retention facilities.

    • Culture is nothing but the frameworks and language that organizations possess in the form of sharing interpretations.
    • Transformations refer to the appropriate systems and procedures that the organization performs based on its previous experiences.
    • Structures associate the people with an environment and also with each other.

    The organization’s surroundings bound typically with retention facilities and external activities that competitors, ex-employees, and government bodies can use such data storage.

  3. Retrieval

    For many organizations and individuals, knowledge management tools can either be controlled or automatic. The latter refers to the intuitive and practically relatively easy process to access organization memory, precisely a sequence of a specific action.” The term “controlled” means the conscious attempt to access the knowledge that is available for further usage.

    What do humans and organizations do then? They both access and use past experiences to get rid of repeating the same mistakes. Organization in memory resides in a single repository, but it is spread throughout the organization and can even handle it outside the organization.

    The question arises in the mind of how people typically retrieve that particular knowledge or data,  so the answer is with the help of electronic records, one can easily fetch it smoothly.

The above three stages of the organizational memory help the organizations deal with multiple memory usage scenarios.

Organizational Memory Strategy

Organizational Memory Strategy
The knowledge management processes typically deal with multiple ways, but this section describes the high-level organizational or corporate memory strategy.

  1. Organizational Structure Management

    The organizational structure usually deals with the management of the company layout that contains various government bodies.  It is a unique way to operate KM in the form of physical and non-physical divisions.

    Generally, formal and informal organizations’ structures are two types that help people and firms relate to one another.

    • Formal: The hierarchical relationships between the firm and members in an organizational chart to meet the site scope is formal.  However, there exist multiple things that share common attributes to KM.For example, knowledge sharing takes place inside the organization. It makes sense if the organization uses a set structure as it depends on business type and firm size.

      If the organizations make any changes in the formal structure, it leads to restructuring the entire organization.

    • Informal: The one initiates by using the informal networks that result in working within the organization’s value. It is very closely related to KM, where the knowledge flows and multiple repositories work depending on these structures.However, the managers can quickly impact the social networks in multiple ways like generalists for community identification, project team members, physical meetings, and virtual socialization to meet the organization’s vision, goals, and ideas among the organizational members and their communities.
  2. Switching Corporate Culture

    Why do organizations need a change in corporate culture?

    Organizational culture invokes a common framework to present multiple events in organizations to encompass the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes to a great extent. Knowledge sharing and other related aspects of KM entirely depend on the organizational culture.

    The primary intense for any worker’s need is to feel secure to build trust among each other when they perform knowledge sharing.

    In 2001, Johnson initiated a cultural web model that highlights the various components of organizational culture. The model includes a set of assumptions, necessary rituals and routines, stories and myths perception, and the variety of symbols that become a boon for many organizational needs.

    Johnson’s model includes innovative control systems to promote various activities on a large scale. For organizations and power structure, a big problem arises when groups of employees work on the standard targets to fulfill the basic organizational needs.

    The organizations must have a clear and visible vision of the working culture and be aware of the small and significant changes. The organizations just need to make sure that all the levels of management perspectives can handle the situation. In addition to it, they must identify the common differences that occur between the different communities and power structures.

    The model strives to deal with the reality of inconsistencies that generally occur during the old assumptions. One of the best parts is history-dependent, follows the everyday practices, and provides a socializing section for newcomers.

  3. Applying Knowledge Retention

    Knowledge retention provides the optimum solution to capture the organizational information that organizations can use later. Retention plays a vital role from the managerial side to answer questions like how the promotion affects retention management?

    Knowledge retention uses impressive techniques to identify the retention when the employees or resources loses the context to capture the information. It includes various integration support, decision-making solutions, and after-action reviews that help organizations achieve great success in this competitive world.

    Apart from using knowledge-sharing capabilities, the organization can use knowledge retention facilities for the following perspectives:

    • Formal & informal knowledge networks
    • Social media platforms
    • Online and offline meeting
    • Useful examples of tools and techniques
    • Expertise locators

    In the year, Doan et al. came up with three impressive questions that specifically relate to knowledge retention:

    • What may knowledge be lost?
    • What are the expected consequences of knowledge loss?
    • What type of actions need to perform knowledge retainment?

    Based on these questions, there are strategic steps that help to formulate the knowledge retention strategy:

    Step 1: The organization needs to understand the risk factor like the average age of employees, minimal informal communication, human memory, lower employee training, and development functionality.

    Step 2: The organization management needs to understand information that is critical and requires more focus.

    Step 3: Develop a strategy formulation using knowledge retention pillars that consist of a wide range of tools, some easy to use, and some hard to perform implementations.

    There exist four categories that initiate knowledge retention. These are:

    • Recognition and reward structure
    • Bidirectional knowledge flow
    • Personalization and codification like Lessons learned
    • The golden gem
    •  Using a phased retirement system
  4. Dealing with Core Competencies

    KM is nothing but the reuse of relevant information. What does the word relevant means? It links specific KM to the enterprise core competencies concept.

    Core competencies usually mean combining the various aspects with learning the organizational functions, such as product skills coordination levels and integrating multiple technologies stream on a large scale. In simple words, it is the firm’s leading expertise that deals with various sources of more comfort competitive advantage.

    It is the central knowledge component, and its related management includes corporate strategy product that works with KM and innovation management. This simple model usually delves into multiple directions, converting the core competencies into responsive core products.

    What is the leading role of KM? To answer this question, let us identify the process to manage the core competencies.

    • Identification and Assessment: The organization must identify the main competencies as per the business need to link them to a specific product directly. An evaluation process then takes place to answer the basic questions like what has and what needs to have. The KM is solely responsible for identifying the essential knowledge’s accurate location, tacit expertise or the knowledge dealing with products, routines, and factors that fill the gaps.
    • Accurate Assistance: Knowledge assets are the best example of organizational core competencies, possessing the morality to improve rather than deplore through its usage. Typically, the KM role involves twofold factors, on the one hand, the stock resides for the main knowledge assets, whereas on the other hand, it must have the potential to grip the assets across the enterprise.
    • Development: The combination of knowledge, practice, coordination, and refinements invoke the concept to build unique core competencies. To build core competencies is not an easy task, as it involves the competitive advantage that initiates from assets that are complex to imitate. From the KM point of view, it implies to build specific tacit knowledge across various departments.
    • Unlearning:  Generally, the organization has a habit of continuing to keep continuing what they have learned so far. One of the significant aspects of a successful business is to deal with unlearning competencies that are no longer useful. It plays an essential role in identifying and managing the organization’s knowledge assets in the perfect direction from KM perspectives.
  5. External Knowledge Network Management

    KM has a broader and long-term process to build an external knowledge network with a primary goal to explore the acquisition dynamics that initiate from external sources. Such type of presentation includes the broader introduction of the potential roles of KM.

    Generally, clients, suppliers, competitors, and even business partners are vital sources of external knowledge. Each of these sources possesses a different set of sufficient knowledge and challenges in the active acquisition method.

    Let us now highlight the necessary steps to extend the external knowledge network.

    • Evaluating the target/partner: Mergers, acquisition, and other investment ventures use this process that is mostly driven by the estimated target contributors (knowledge and core competencies).
    • Relationship Establishment: The procedures, rules, and intentions for the nature relationship reports are available for clients, suppliers, or even the competitor on a large scale. Typically, it can take many forms to define a new structure and perform integration to merge-common organizational cultures and related identities.
    • Knowledge Integration: It is the process through which all the information is available in one place and can use the knowledge and even the know-how method precisely from the relationship. The best examples are reporting analytics, feedback methodologies, IT systems approach, and common projects.
    • Just provide the accurate and perfect info based on internal knowledge assets.
    • The organization needs assistance in the evaluation operations.
    • Knowledge Sharing Encouragement: There is two face side. On one side, it deals with the top management workflow scenario to offer the best systems for knowledge transfer. On the other hand, it involves systems, incentives factors, organizational culture change, and additional facilitation support for the knowledge-sharing platform.
    • Capture and share relevant external knowledge:  It includes the data analysis process to manage the knowledge transfer activities to ensure that the knowledge is accurate and perfect.

    So, KM is solely responsible for working with almost all the areas and is the essential metric for the learning process.

  6. Impact of  Knowledge Management Systems

    For any organization, the term KM and KM systems mean a lot. However, the real fact is that most people disagree with the point that KM systems are a tricky part of management.

    In 2007, James Robertson initiated that the organization does not benefit more in terms of KM systems. He says that KM, although includes the technology enhancement, primarily technology discipline leads to more detailed expectations of the “silver-bullet” details.

    Typically, people search for terms like knowledge management systems, and the following general categories help multiple organizations to a great extent.

    • Groupware systems
    • Intranet and extranet
    • Data warehousing, data mining, & OLAP
    • Decision Support Systems
    • Content and Document Management systems
    • AI tools
    • Semantic networks
  7. Problems and Failure Factors

    With the introduction to the new systems, KM commonly affects the various organizations’ technology. Generally, there exist two main categories of knowledge, specifically for design and implementation purposes.

    • The technical programming and design know-how
    • Organizational know-how based on the understanding of knowledge flows

    The common issue is that a single person makes use of these sets of knowledge. Now, it ultimately depends on the people to use the technology. So, it becomes the firm’s responsibility to handle such a situation. But there comes an issue between the IT systems and organizational practices.

    One of the essential facts is that the initiation of knowledge-sharing technologies does not mean that the expert professionals will opt to share the knowledge to a great extent.

    Let us now discuss the vital failure factors of knowledge management systems.

    • It leads to lacking support during the implementation and usage of managerial and technical experts
    • It expects the issue of technology as a KM solution
    • Failure to understand the firm’s expectations
    • Not able to understand the business function and limitation
    • It leads to lacking organizational acceptance, and this points to lacking appropriate corporate culture
    • Deficiencies in quality measures
    • Lacking to grab the knowledge dynamics and the inherent complexity to transfer tacit knowledge with IT-based systems
    • Lack of a specific budget
  8. Accepting and Assimilating Promotion

    In 2011, Hecht et al., based on various models and theories, defines implementation in three innovative steps.

    StepsInfluenced by DesignNot influenced by Design
    • Innovation
    • Characteristics
    • Fit
    • Expected results
    • Communication characteristics
    • Environment
    • Technological infrastructure
    • Resources
    • Organizational characteristics
    • Effort expectancy
    • Performance expectancy
    • Social influences
    • Attitude towards technology use
    • Social system characteristics
    • Process characteristics
    • Management characteristics
    • Institutional characteristics


    Step 1: KMS Adoption

    To promote KMS adoption, the organization needs to take care of the following things.

    • Initiation of firm internal analysis: The findings like knowledge flow evaluation, varied lines of communication, and practice communities form the basis to determine the perfect systems to complement better.
    • The organization needs to make a cost-benefit analysis by considering the various factors like firm size, users, system structure complexity, security issues, lower response time, tracking status, and other collaboration factors.

    Step 2: KMS Acceptance

    The organization can quickly improve acceptance promotion using the following practices.

    • Users involvement for appropriate design and implementation
    • Users involvement for system evaluation
    • Supporting various of the knowledge storage
    • Providing perfect technical and managerial support

    Step 3: KMS Assimilation

    The organization can improvise the assimilation by considering the  following factors:

    • Appropriate content management
    • Accurate budgeting implications
    • Involving accurate management


The organizational learning includes the various training courses on the leading knowledge management tools by IT services. It helps the employees to deal with the information related to the memory process to a great extent.

Institutional memory is nothing but one form of organizational memory, including multiple training courses created by IT services. Typically, the students and freshers are the primary users who grab a better understanding of human memory.

Knowledge management allows us to capture, distribute, and effectively use knowledge in the organization. It includes the knowledge-sharing platform where the work processes and information storage are the major factors to operate on a large scale.


So, which technique or strategy for organizational memory suits the perfect for your business needs?

The organization should be apparent on the focus to implement an accurate KM system at its premise. Human memory and the organization’s memory are almost similar in decision-making capabilities to deal with within the enterprise.

The business individuals must follow the strategies to enhance business productivity and get rid of the re-use functionality at an incredible pace.

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