• Mark Newman

Why you need an Organisational Memory

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

Does your organisation have a memory? The people within it undoubtedly do, but can the most successful practices in your business be both shared and evolved as the basis for organisational transformation?

Working with regionally distributed teams across multinationals is complex. Getting firm buy-in behind shared goals, retaining clear communications across time zones and bonding teams with diverse cultures is challenging. Now consider that in today’s fast changing times, we need to put those teams on a path for transformation. One that needs to continue and be able to flex to constantly shifting conditions. How can we build transformation into business-as-usual?

For a long time, there was insufficient understanding in the business world of the importance of the ‘people’ issues. Behavioural science has quite rightly come to the fore. It’s critical that we understand what makes people tick, to appreciate the impact of culture on working practices and communication, and to realise how the human brain impacts our reactions, responses and adaptability. All these things are important, but to make change sustainable business processes matter too. For large and regionally diverse enterprises, change will only stick when there are processes and infrastructure in place to support and facilitate it. Setting up a centralised organisational memory should be a key part of any transformation plan.

Modelling best practice

Regardless of which processes, methodologies or professional frameworks are followed in an organisation, best practice ultimately lies with its people. The problem is identifying where it is and having a structure that allows best practice information to be easily found and used by others –particularly in complex global organisations. Where change is ongoing, this is an essential part of keeping all business units aligned and effective. Best practice is neither a fixed nor a finite thing. The concept of what is ‘best’ will need to flex and adapt with the fast-changing environment, and to meet varying cultural or local factors. If the approach used takes too long to capture a best practice process or behaviour, everything will have changed again and this in itself will seriously undermine the success of transformation. Best practices need to be modelled in a way that can be understood across cultural boundaries, and they need to be easily stored for quick access and updating. The organisation needs a central memory.

Communication that evolves solutions

Intranets, communities of practice, Yammer networks and so on, have all been explored by organisations facing this challenge. After a short while, these revert to being little more than discussion forums, with a variety of opinions contributing little value. The key is to allow collaborative conversations to take place in a purposeful way, focused around specific issues and allowing multiple people to contribute and help to evolve a solution.

By building systems around existing organisational networks, an organisational memory can be developed into a foundation stone for onward evolution and transformation. Centralising an adaptive framework can help take everyone with you on the journey of change. Not undermining individual autonomy or contribution, but empowering, sharing and enhancing collaboration towards true organisational agility.