Organizational Memory

I have invited my colleague, Sarah Barton, to share her work in creating organizational memory in a "guest blogger" series. Enjoy!

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting with my 93 year old grandmother. During our conversation, she was trying to recall someone’s name. She couldn’t remember it at the moment, but assured me that it would come to her later. I told her that I understood; she has millions of memories to sift through from her 93 years and sometimes it takes a bit to recall the exact memory.

Perhaps your organization can relate when trying to locate an item of information in its organizational memory. Maybe you want to make a change in policy, and you struggle to remember how or why policy changes were adopted in the past. Perhaps you just need to locate some historical data on a project from ten years ago, but you can’t locate the information, so you have been forced to wade through old files in order to find it. Maybe you work at an organization that repeats its past behaviors, over and over, expecting to get new results, and you are ready to stop the insanity. Organizing your organization’s historical memory can help with all of these challenges.

Many organizations fail to create a structure to store their “memories,” and as a result, unplanned turnover, a significant change in administration, or changes in organizational structure can be catastrophic. These changes can result in thousands of lost man hours, poor project results, and even in organizational failure. It is very important to create a structure for the organization’s historical memories that lasts through any of these crises.

Over the next several posts, I will outline ways to improve the organizational memory of your company or business. I look forward to exploring and improving our memories together.


Sarah Barton currently serves as Registrar at Ohio Valley University. She has over twelve years experience working in the areas of records maintenance, database management, grant writing, grant administration, and organizational assessment. When she is not working, she is a wife and mother of three children, a mixed media artist, a cook and an active member of her church family.