Creating a "Dream Team" to Capture Organizational Memory

It's the time for New Year's Resolutions. We recommend you make (and keep!) a resolution about capturing your organizational memory.Here's our colleague, Sarah Barton, with more tips for that process.

Happy New Year to you and your family!  I pray that the new year is full of blessings for you and your kin, your communities and your businesses.

Last time I posted, I discussed the importance of creating an organizational memory for your business or organization.  This  "memory" helps you keep track of the where your business has come from, how it has changed over time, what worked and did not work, and where you want it to go in the future.  As we move forward, I will share with you a process to follow to begin identifying resources that can help locate and document your organizational memory, provide recommendations on how to organize and store your memories, and will help you create processes for adding information to your memory as your business moves into the future.

Select Your Team

To begin the process of organizing an organizational memory, you need to identify key individuals in your organization that can assist in this process. These are going to be individuals that have access to files, both electronic and paper files.  At least one of the individuals needs to be the go to person in your organization, perhaps the CEO's secretary or a human resource person, that everyone goes to find out answers their organizational questions.   One of the individuals needs to have some significant history with the organization. It can also be helpful to have someone relatively new to the organization, or someone to ask questions that a seasoned person might not think to ask. The key to success will be to have representation from a cross-section of offices and to identify people who have the skill of being able to reach a consensus.  If you must select an individual that has the knowledge, but has difficultly reaching consensus with a group, consider bringing in an outside consultant to help mediate the meetings and move the committee through the process.

Size of the Initial Team

As you select the correct individuals for your team, consider keeping the number on your initial organizational memory team to a small number, five to seven works well.  These individuals will be the pioneers of the concept in your organization, but the goal of the team is to get every single person in the organization involved in the process of managing their files in a cohesive manner.  The initial team needs to be excited about the process, able to communicate  to the rest of the organization and organized.  Remember, the ultimate goal of the process is to get the entire organization to participate, so no one is going to be "left out" in the long run.

Goals of the Team

Moving forward through the process, the team you select for this is going to help the collect information that has built the organization and currently guides the organization.  The goals include establishing processes for managing that information that is logical, ensuring accessibility to the data so that everyone in the organization can utilize the data as needed, and instituting guidelines for the creation of new information that can be added to the organizational memory, so as to maintain its validity over time.  These goals may seem very ambitious, but in future posts, I hope to provide guidelines to help you through each of these steps.  Remember, this process of creating an organizational memory is a process, not a one time event.  Making these types of changes must occur over time, with thoughtful guidance, and good documentation.  The benefits of creating this memory structure are will greatly exceed the time and effort you will invest in this process, and should be the driving force for completing this process.

I hope that you have found this article helpful as you consider creating an organizational memory for your organization.  Next time we will begin to break down the processes needed for reaching your goals.

May your new year be blessed with exciting new adventures, Sarah


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.