Seeping Knowledge

Is there one person in your organization who serves unofficially as your “historian” or “librarian”? These people typically have worked for many years and are the holders of your institutional knowledge.

They know how you did things 15 years ago and how and why processes changed over time. They remember your company superstars and what they contributed. They recall the good and bad managers, and the impact they had on the staff.

They know things about clients that are tucked away in the back of their heads, only to rise to the surface if something related to those clients appears.

What do you do when these people retire? More important, how do you proactively capture your institutional knowledge in a way that maintains enough substance and won’t seep away when these denizens of knowledge leave?

Although there are sophisticated software programs that can code and record information for future reference, not all companies are willing to invest in such programs. You’re still left with knowledge gaps, so you need to do what you can to plug up some of those leaks and keep that knowledge.

When projects or assignments are completed, highlight some of the key aspects in a recap memo that becomes part of your filing system. Tag this document with key words that are specific to this project, but also include more general tags so that the information can be useful to future related assignments.

Conduct a debriefing with your department so that everyone hears a summary and recap of salient points. Discuss how the results of this assignment may apply to other projects.

Don’t try to go back in history and document what has already happened. Not only is this tedious, but it takes away from the business at hand. Be proactive and capture this knowledge moving forward.

What other ways do you contain institutional knowledge? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week!

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