Downsizing and Building Organizational Memory: A Paradoxical Relationship between “Brain-Drain” and “Brain-Gain”

Downsizing and Building Organizational Memory: A Paradoxical Relationship between “Brain-Drain” and “Brain-Gain”

Nicholas N. Bowersox (TUI University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-540-5.ch002
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Recent business practices over the past decade have been tainted with corporate restructuring strategies such as downsizing, reorganizations, and job redesigns. With the hopes of increasing efficiency, gaining productivity, and reducing costs, many companies have participated in such efforts. However, one must consider the irony behind this shrewd, if not tactfully harsh, business practice. While organizations continue to decrease their workforce in an effort to regain acceptable profit margins, cut back on “waste” and become “leaner”, they also stress the importance of sharing knowledge among employees and building organizational memory. How can a company effectively share knowledge and build organizational memory when its employee base is shrinking? This is an interesting question that has stirred much debate over recent years, both in the public and private sector. As such, this book chapter attempts to explore the paradoxical relationship between downsizing (brain-drain) and building organizational memory (brain-gain).
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Unfortunately, downsizing is a way of life in today’s global business economy. Through methods that include mergers, acquisitions, corporate restructuring, and outsourcing, downsizing is considered normal and is often expected when company profits are below normal. Despite its popularity, many studies such as Cascio (1993) claim that downsizing does more harm than good. This harm is not just limited to measurable factors like productivity or profitability, but also to less easily measurable factors such as organizational memory. In fact, previous research supports the notion that organizations which can effectively create, share, and transfer knowledge at the individual, group, and organizational levels are more effective than those that cannot (Kogut & Zander, 1992). The effective sharing of knowledge leads to organizational learning which, in turn, is a precursor to building organizational memories (Balasubramanian, 1995). Here, it seems we have a paradigm that exists. Are downsizing and building organizational memory simultaneously compatible with one other? Can an organization eliminate employees and still effectively commit itself to build organizational memory? These are the types of questions that this book chapter will explore, but first, for the sake of the reader, let’s examine the layout and structure of this chapter.

To begin, the relevance of organizational downsizing and how it is used as a modern business strategy will be discussed. Secondly, this chapter will discuss the concept of organizational memory – specifically how the term came about, its history, and why it is important. Third, this chapter will examine the concepts of single-loop and double-loop learning, as discussed in the works of Argyris and Schon (1996), and how collective learning can harness a framework for building organizational memories. Finally, this chapter will tie together the two main topics of this paper, downsizing and organizational memory, by proposing relevant areas for future research as well as the practitioner benefits of this book chapter.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Nick Bontis
John P. Girard
John P. Girard
Chapter 1
Peter Stoyko
This chapter describes how organizational culture is both a “vessel” for preserving organizational memory and a force that conditions the way... Sample PDF
Organizational Culture and the Management of Organizational Memory
Chapter 2
Nicholas N. Bowersox
Recent business practices over the past decade have been tainted with corporate restructuring strategies such as downsizing, reorganizations, and... Sample PDF
Downsizing and Building Organizational Memory: A Paradoxical Relationship between “Brain-Drain” and “Brain-Gain”
Chapter 3
Nicholas P. Robinson, Prescott C. Ensign
This chapter argues that a trusting corporate culture predicated on values that emphasize sharing and encourage interactions amongst stakeholders at... Sample PDF
Effective Stakeholder Knowledge Sharing for Effective Organizational Memory
Chapter 4
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses the revision of the SECI model originally based on Japanese organizational culture into a model based on American... Sample PDF
Revising the SECI Model for American Organizational Culture
Chapter 5
Parissa Haghirian
A growing interest in the various aspects of knowledge transfer within multinational corporations has been evidenced by a recent surge in empirical... Sample PDF
Knowledge Transfer within Multinational Corporations: An Intercultural Challenge
Chapter 6
Patrice Dunckley, Suzanne Roff-Wexler
This chapter provides perspective and practical techniques that individuals and organizations can use to maximize knowledge transfer efforts. It... Sample PDF
Valuing a Multiplicity of Views: How to Tap Informal Networks to See the (W)hole
Chapter 7
Haris Papoutsakis
This chapter explores the ways that Knowledge Sharing Networks support the flow of organizational knowledge within a firm. Based on the assumption... Sample PDF
Organizational Knowledge Sharing Networks
Chapter 8
Raul M. Abril, Ralf Müller
This chapter suggests established research approaches to capture and validate project lessons learned. Past research indicates that due to the... Sample PDF
Lessons Learned as Organizational Project Memories
Chapter 9
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses employee recall due to training presentations. Recall is an employee’s ability to remember what they knew or have learned via... Sample PDF
Will You Recall What You Knew?
Chapter 10
Maria de los Angeles Martin, Luis Olsina
With the aim to manage and retrieve the organizational knowledge, in the last years numerous proposals of models and tools for knowledge management... Sample PDF
Added Value of Ontologies for Modeling an Organizational Memory
Chapter 11
Juha Kettunen
This study analyses how strategic management is integrated with budgeting in the cities using the Balanced Scorecard approach, which provides a... Sample PDF
The Collective Process and Memory of Strategic Management
Chapter 12
Kimiz Dalkir
Research on how organizational memories can be created, preserved and made available for future reuse in NPOs is presented. An initial review of the... Sample PDF
Organizational Memory Challenges Faced by Non-Profit Organizations
Chapter 13
Susan G. McIntyre
The case study of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), a Canadian... Sample PDF
Creating and Sustaining Meta Organizational Memory: A Case Study
Chapter 14
David Bennet, Alex Bennet
This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the basic concepts related to the unconscious life of an organization, and then addresses specific... Sample PDF
Associative Patterning: The Unconscious Life of an Organization
Chapter 15
Michael JD Sutton
This chapter introduces the research domain of knowledge management educational programs and issues associated with the preservation of knowledge... Sample PDF
A Manifesto for the Preservation of Organizational Memory Associated with the Emergence of Knowledge Management Educational Programs
Chapter 16
Marie-Hélène Abel
Learning can be considered an outcome associated with acquiring new competencies (Sicilia, 2005) and adding new knowledge. A competence is a way to... Sample PDF
An Organizational Memory Tool for E-Learning
Chapter 17
Sajjad M. Jasimuddin, N.A.D. Connell, Jonathan H. Klein
It is generally recognized that Walsh and Ungson (1991) “provided the first integrative framework for thinking about organizational memory”... Sample PDF
Understanding Organizational Memory
Chapter 18
Les Miller, Sree Nilakanta, Yunan Song, Lei Zhu, Ming Hua
Organizational memories play a significant role in knowledge management, but several challenges confront their use. Artifacts of OM are many and... Sample PDF
Managing Knowledge in Organizational Memory Using Topic Maps
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