Organizational Memory: Meaning, Strategy & Importance

An organization’s collective knowledge, experience, and corporate history are referred to as organizational memory. It is the collection of data and expertise that an organization has gathered through time and uses to support continuity, guide future actions, and influence decision-making.

A strong organizational memory is essential for firms to remain competitive and react to change in today’s fast-paced business. In this blog post, we will discuss the value of organizational memory and how to improve it in your business.

Define Organizational Memory?

Organizational memory is the collective ability to accumulate, store, and retrieve knowledge and data. It is also sometimes called institutional or corporate memory.

In the year 1991, two scholars Walsh and Ungson, worked together to study and understand the process behind organizational memory.

The researcher initiated the collective decision-making interpretations, typically evolving as a part of an organization’s science that remains active even after an employee or experienced team member has left the firm.

In response, organizational memory can fetch stored knowledge, and share the data among individuals. As a human being, memory means to gain, store, and retrieve human data in the form of documentation. 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 in the application.

We also access and use past experiences to exploit valuable knowledge. Organizations do the same. However, corporate memory, unlike human memory, does not exist in just one repository. It resides throughout the organization. It even lives outside it. How people retrieve that knowledge or data varies.


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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.

Just as a human has memory, the organizations have a collection of 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 from a corporate memory perspective, it exists in multiple locations.

What are the stages for processing knowledge through 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. They store it across several retention facilities.

    • Culture is nothing but the frameworks and language that organizations possess in the form of sharing collective interpretations.
    • Transformations refer to the appropriate 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 are typically bound with retention facilities and external activities that competitors, ex-employees, and government bodies can use such data storage. These stages are essential to the organization’s learning process

  3. Retrieval

    For many organizations and other individuals, knowledge management tools can either be controlled or automatic. The latter refers to the intuitive and essentially effortless 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 work.

    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.

    How do people retrieve that particular knowledge or data? -With the help of electronic records.

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

Organizational Memory Strategy

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

  1. Organizational Structure Management

    The organizational form 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.  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.
  2. Switching Corporate Culture

    Why do organizations need a change in corporate culture?

    Organizational culture memory 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 need for any worker is to feel secure enough to build trust among each other when they perform knowledge sharing for the specific application.

    The primary intense for any worker needs to feel secure to build trust among them when they perform knowledge sharing for the specific application.

    In 2001, Johnson initiated a cultural web model that includes assumptions, necessary rituals and routines, stories and myths perception, innovative control systems to promote various business activities, and multiple symbols that become a boon for many organizational needs.

    For organizations and power structures, 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.

    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 lose the context to capture the information. It includes various integration support, decision-making solutions, and after-action management reviews that help organizations achieve great success in this competitive world.

    How does the organization grab knowledge retention facilities?

    • 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 theory:

    • What type of knowledge wil be lost?
    • What are the expected consequences of valuable knowledge loss?
    • What type of actions need to be performed for knowledge retention?

    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 factors like the average age of employees, minimal informal communication, number of web pages, human memory contribution, lower employee training, and development features.

    Step 2: The organization’s management needs to understand the most critical information and the area that requires more focus.

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

    There exist some categories that initiate valuable knowledge retention. These are:

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

    Knowledge Management is nothing but the reuse of relevant information for articles. 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 on a large scale.

    It is the central knowledge component, and its related management includes corporate strategy products that work with KM. 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 per the business need to link them to a specific product directly. A long term evaluation process then occurs to answer the article’s fundamental questions, like what has and what needs to have. The KM is solely responsible for identifying the essential knowledge’s accurate location, tacit expertise, knowledge dealing with products, and other inferences 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. It 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 building-specific tacit knowledge representations across various departments.
    • Unlearning: Generally, the organization has a habit of continuing to continue 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 external knowledge with a primary goal to explore the information acquisition dynamics that initiate from external sources. Such a type of presentation includes a more comprehensive introduction of the potential roles of KM.

    Generally, clients, suppliers, competitors, and even business partners are vital origins of external knowledge. Each of these 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, acquisitions, and other investment ventures use this process 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. It can typically take many forms to define a new structure and perform integration to merge-common organizational structures 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 standard web pages. 
    • Just provide the accurate and perfect info based on internal knowledge assets.
    • The organization needs assistance in the evaluation operations.
    • Knowledge Sharing Encouragement: There are two facets sides. On one side, it deals with the top management workflow scenario to offer the best knowledge transfer methods. On the other hand, it involves processes, 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 such methods are a tricky part of managing everything.

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

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

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

    With the introduction to the new methods, 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 Now, it ultimately depends on the people who use the technology. So, it becomes the firm’s responsibility to handle such a situation. But there comes an issue between the IT methodologies and organizational practices.

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

    Let us now discuss the vital failure factors of KM systems.

    • It leads to lacking support during the implementation and using 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 effect of budget
  8. Accepting and Assimilating Promotion

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

    Steps Influenced by Design Not 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 communication lines, and practice communities form the basis to design the perfect systems to complement better.
    • The organization needs to make a cost-benefit analysis by considering firm size, 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, system evaluation and implementation
    • Supporting various connection 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

Organizational learning includes the various training courses on the leading knowledge management tools by IT products. It helps the employees to deal with the information related to the corporate 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 individuals who grab a better understanding of human memory.

KM allows us to capture, distribute, and effectively use embedded 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?

Any organization needs organizational memory because it enables storing and retrieving crucial data and knowledge. With it, businesses would find it easier to stay consistent, make educated decisions, and adjust to change.

Organizations can improve their organizational memory and ensure a more successful future by implementing knowledge management and information-sharing strategies.

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