Understanding Organizational Memory

Understanding Organizational Memory

Sajjad M. Jasimuddin (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), N.A.D. Connell (University of Southampton, UK) and Jonathan H. Klein (University of Southampton, UK)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-540-5.ch017
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It is generally recognized that Walsh and Ungson (1991) “provided the first integrative framework for thinking about organizational memory” (Olivera, 2000, p. 813). Within the field of knowledge management (KM), there has been interest in a variety of issues surrounding organizational memory (OM), which is understood to involve processes of storage and retrieval of organizational knowledge of the past for use in both the present and the future. The recognition of the importance of OM has implications for practice. For example, Argote, Beckman, and Epple (1990) suggest that the effective use of OM can protect an organization from some of the negative effects of staff loss, while Stein (1995, p. 19) asserts that an appreciation of OM can facilitate the solution of problems associated with the retention and utilization of knowledge within organizations.
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The topic of OM has received a great deal of attention from researchers across a wide range of disciplines, most notably organization theory, psychology, sociology, communication theory, and information systems. In a detailed exploration of OM, Stein (1995, p. 17) suggests that “there are three major reasons to explore this concept in more detail: (1) memory is a rich metaphor that provides insight into organizational life; (2) OM is embedded in other management theories; (3) OM is relevant to management practice.”

Most of the literature on OM tends to focus on definitions of the term, the content and types of OM, its location, and the processes associated with the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and maintenance of memory (Walsh & Ungson, 1991; Stein & Zwass, 1995; Casey, 1997). Walsh and Ungson (1991, p. 61) provide an overall definition of OM as “stored information from an organization’s history that can be brought to bear on present decisions.” This corresponds closely with the definition given by Stein (1995), who regards OM as the way in which organizational knowledge from the past is brought to bear on present activities.

Some studies have addressed the role of information technology in developing OM systems (OMS) which support OM processes (Sherif, 2002). Several researchers have highlighted the barriers to the implementation of OMS, the ways in which they might be overcome (Sherif, 2002), and the influence of OM on organizational effectiveness (Olivera, 2000).

OM occupies a significant place within management literature. However, Walsh and Ungson (1991, p. 57) argue that “the extant representations of the concept of OM are fragmented and underdeveloped.” Examination of the existing literature reveals frequent divergence of understanding of the notion of OM (Corbett, 1997). Indeed, earlier researchers (most notably Ungson, Braunstein, & Hall, 1981; Argyris & Schon, 1978) denied the existence of OM. Generally, organizational theorists disagree about a variety of issues surrounding OM. Ackerman and Halverson (1998, cited by Schwartz, Divitini, & Brasethvik, 2000, p. 3) are concerned that a clear and universally accepted definition of what an OM should do appears to be lacking:

After nearly 10 years of research, the term organizational memory has become overworked and confused. It is time for a re-examination. The term is burdened with the practical wish to reuse organizational experience, leading researchers to ignore critical functions of an organization’s memory and consider only some forms of augmenting memory.

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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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