Organizational Culture and the Management of Organizational Memory

Organizational Culture and the Management of Organizational Memory

Peter Stoyko (Canada School of Public Service, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-540-5.ch001
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This chapter describes how organizational culture is both a “vessel” for preserving organizational memory and a force that conditions the way organizational memory is managed by other means. A detailed breakdown of the specific elements of organizational culture is conducted in order to describe this dual relationship. It is argued that the goal of managers should be the creation of a learning-oriented culture while avoiding the politicization of culture. Given that culture can not be manipulated directly, managers need to develop a sophisticated repertoire of leadership skills and a keen sense for sociopsychological dynamics. Specific advice on this count is offered at various points.
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More and more managers are using the language of organizational culture and corporate culture. It is not difficult to imagine why. Many managers want to know how people come to share perceptions, interpretations, and attitudes, as well as how workplace symbolism shapes the way people feel and act. The goal may not be conformity per se, as there are countless benefits to intellectual diversity. Nonetheless, there is a widespread belief that certain types of intellectual commonality can reduce unproductive conflict, promote collaboration, and align work towards a single purpose—all without the need for overbearing supervision. There is also something about cultural pride that can lift the heart and inspire the mind to better serve the common good. Organizational culture is a potentially powerful force.

That potential goes largely unrealized. It is partly due to the non-instrumental nature of culture. An organization’s culture can not be manipulated directly, as a manager might allocate resources or dictate a course of action. Culture is influenced indirectly and evolves erratically over time. The deliberate influencing of culture requires a sophisticated repertoire of leadership skills and a keen sense for socio-psychological dynamics. Organizational culture also goes largely untapped because of its multidimensional nature. When we speak about culture, we are actually referring to several distinct things: from the shared principles people espouse to the open secrets people fain ignorance of; from fickle fads and fashions to enduring taboos and norms; from arduous rites of passage to the status symbols of power; the list goes on. This complexity is not widely recognized. Despite four decades of scholarship on organizational culture, the term is used in countless ways, usually without precise meaning. In the workplace, wherever conceptual laxity and empty buzzwords reign, sloppy thinking and cynicism are sure to prevail. Much needs to be done to rehabilitate the concept for general consumption.

Knowledge managers have a big stake in this rehabilitation. Organizational culture relates to the management of organizational memory in two ways. First, organizational culture is a means by which meaning is transmitted over time within a workplace. Workers pass down lessons through oral histories. Knowledge is embedded in collective work habits. The shared assumptions and mental models that evolve within a collective frame the way work is understood and decisions are made. These are all examples of how organizational culture is a “vessel” that contains ideas and experiences from the past. Second, organizational culture influences the way information and knowledge is shared and preserved by other means. For example, the bonds of trust formed within a workplace affect how candid and direct workers dare to be. Social boundaries, such as those which surround cliques, can undermine the flow of information. Values and norms can affect people’s willingness to reflect on work and codify worthwhile lessons. These examples show how culture is part of the work environment that conditions the way people think and act.

This chapter will explore the complexities of how organizational culture and organizational memory intertwine. This includes a discussion of the cultural features that help or harm the management of memory. One particular set of features is helpful: a learning-oriented culture of candor, constructive debate, joint reflection, respect for the past, and habitual knowledge sharing and preservation. A very different set of cultural features is harmful: a politicized culture of internecine conflict, territoriality, fad surfing, and sharky, egoistic careerism. What can a manager do to cultivate the good and weed-out the bad? The chapter will provide answers to that question at various points. Some comments about the future will round-out the discussion.

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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
About the Contributors