INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY SERVICE
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT – ENHANCED
PORTFOLIO & PROJECT ENGAGEMENT SERVICE
SELECTING THE RIGHT PROJECT
PROGRAMME & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
PRE-PACKAGED, RAPID DEPLOYMENT, SCALE-ABLE, LEAN
FULLY CUSTOMISED PMO
A PMO CONFIGURED TO CLIENT SPECIFICATIONS
NJM INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY SERVICE (IMS)
Many business processes are transactional in nature – individuals within the organisation draw on institutional knowledge to perform tasks with defined outcomes. However many organisations have lost institutional knowledge though the various pathways of staff loss, redundancy, retirement and attrition. This loss of institutional memory has a business impact, even loss of business continuity In our own experience NJMC has found in the area of project/programme management this loss can be felt particularly keenly. When one considers that permanent project/programme resources are increasingly rare, replaced by agency and contractor resources this can have consequences that reach forward to impact future work, increases risks, repeating avoidable errors and increasing costs. Managers have to constantly balance the potential cost impact of decisions where sometimes the immediate savings turn out to have longer terms costs because the loss of institutional memory.
The Transfer of Knowledge is a Critical Business Continuity Function
Most organizations today regularly experience these dynamics with the result that the informal, people-based institutional knowledge that is so critical to organizational effectiveness seems to have a shorter and shorter shelf life. No organisation should assume that knowledge transfer and lessons learnt will happen by themselves, it does not.
Transfer of knowledge requires active encouragement backed by leadership recognition of its value, because if one does not pay attention, the knowledge base of a team or business unit will atrophy and an organisation will be doomed to repeating past, and often costly, mistakes.
How Atrophy of Institutional Memory Occurs
- Work force reductions and cuts to services seen as overheads.
- An aging workforce with the most experienced now retiring, a demographic situation that will grow for some years to come.
- Use of agency and/or contractor resources.
- The knowledge simply residing in the heads, hands, and hearts, not documented.
- The introduction of automated processes using robotics, AI or M2M learning leads to the disgarding of previously human processes.
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REAL WORLD INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY FAILURES
British Royal Navy
Several years ago the British Royal Navy suddenly woke up to mem0ry loss particularly around its nuclear deterrent. Hard as it is to see the exact impact of that loss in such a secretive organisation the possible end results of such could end up being seen in mushroom clouds 10,000 meters high!
HM Government Treasury
The UK Treasury’s former permanent secretary, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, said that while young staff are highly knowledgeable the short time they spend in their posts means they often miss out on the “folk memory”. This, he says, became very clear to him and to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling during the course of the 2008-09 financial crises when they realised “the vast majority of Treasury staff had never been through even a recession, let alone a banking crisis”. When the run on one of Britain’s biggest banks, Northern Rock, struck in 2007, Sir Nicholas said, the Treasury “might have been able to stop the run, but we were all starting from first principles”. In this case loss of institutional memory cost British tax payers dearly. This whole episode also makes one wonder at just what business continuity arrangements they had in place at the time, if any at all.
UK Network Rail
The Great Western Mainline electrification in the UK was a project originally costed at some £800 Million some years ago. Thoses costs have risen to £2.8 Billion and now are expected to finish around £5.2 Billion. A National Audit Office report criticised both the British Department for Transport (DfT) and the national rail infrastructure company Network Rail for their lamentable performances. The reasons for the over runs are complex but a great deal of it can be laid at loss of experienced railway men who knew the network and critically knew the older, signalling systems. In its haste to outsource everything Network Rail managed to eradicate most of its historic knowledge. Things are changing in Network Rail now, but did the memory loss have to happen at all?
The City of London
Few realise that In the city of London staff turnover is running at some 26%, which is higher than fast food chain McDonalds – over a quarter of potentially valuable knowledge is literally walking out through revolving doors throughout the city of London.
One of the underrated costs of employee turnover, in addition to the costs of recruiting and training new employees, is the loss of institutional knowledge represented by departing or off-boarding employees. When employees leave your company, they take with them a lot of valuable knowledge, connections, expertise, process experience and social capital that can be difficult to replace.