You Don't Know What You Have Until You Clean Your Closets

It's time for spring cleaning in the organizational memory process. Here's our colleague, Sarah, with more tips to help your organization "find" its memory.

You may recall that in the last post, I shared with you how to develop your team of coworkers who will help develop and strengthen your organization's memory.  This week we are going to talk about cleaning out the files. It's not nearly as scary as it sounds, but the next step requires a little digging to locate pieces of your memory that may have been buried under the piles for a while.

Most organizations have created documents for presentations, websites, loans, accreditation, or other professional opportunities that contain valuable pieces of information about the organization. Some of these may be in the form of handbooks, business plans, feasibility studies, strategic plans or self-studies. These documents are invaluable to the organization because they help the organization identify what its goals were/are, weaknesses or strengths of the organization, and methods used for overcoming challenges the organization has faced. Unfortunately, many of these valuable documents (which some colleague has spent months creating) are often discarded to stacks of files once the crises or project has been completed. This practice leaves our organizational memories fragmented and the history of those documents are often lost when the author of the piece moves to a new position or leaves the organization.

That's why I recommend that the organization memory team clean house. They need to identify the documents they have available to them so they can establish the foundation of their organization's memory. An initial brainstorming session will bring to light many pieces that can be used for this purpose. Each of the team members can be assigned offices to visit and the team members can inquire about any significant documents in those offices. Once this is done, these pieces will need to be accessed and stored, but the initial phase is to identify which pieces exist. The team will (hopefully) be pleasantly surprised at the proliferation of items available for use. If not, don't fret. We will be able to create some of the documents with ease in the future.

If you are working through this process, I bid you happy gathering. Next time we will discuss how to organize the items we  have found and discuss how we are going to store our memories going forward.

Happy hunting, 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.