People come and go, but the corporate procedures remain as the place where know-how is stored.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
But where is the memory of an organisation, that allows such learning to be developed?
You can’t rely on the memory of the employees to be the totality of the memory of the organisation, as employees come and go, and the human memory is, after all, a fragile and unreliable thing, prone to all sorts of cognitive bias.
In addition to this human organisational memory, we can make a strong case for organisational structures, operating procedures and processes also forming a major component of organisational memory. Processes and procedures are built up over time, and represent the company view of “how we do things”. Employees follow the processes, and repeat “how things are done”. The processes hold and propagate the patterns for behaviour, and for the way work is conducted. If the organisation is to learn, these processes must evolve over time.
The concept of evolving processes as part of the learning loop is recognised by many learning organisations. Lessons are identified and gathered, and then used to update processes and procedures. As more lessons are gained, so the processes evolve, and this evolution preresents the way the organisation learns.
One of the learning professionals in the UK Military said to me “what is doctrine (the Army name for procedures), if not the record of lessons learned?” For the Army, the Doctrine is the memory.