Loss of knowledge LO14775

Marc Sacks (msacks@world.std.com)
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 10:34:20 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO14761 --

On Wed, 27 Aug 1997, Alan Luks wrote:

> Not quite on the topic of unlearning, but does anyone have any
> thoughts/articles/references on the loss of organisational knowledge
> and/or culture as a result of downsizing, i.e. with middle management
> being stripped from the organisation, those positions which traditionally
> provided the career path from the lower rungs to the upper rungs, the area
> where staff learned about the culture and how to get things done has now
> disapeared.

This isn't just a result of large-scale downsizing. All individuals in an
organization, or at least all who are good performers, are repositories of
both specialized, situated knowledge and organizational folklore and oral
tradition. Any time someone leaves the company, much of that knowledge is
lost. New people are constantly retracing the steps of their
predecessors, since such knowledge is seldom codified.

If people leave voluntarily, they may have time to document a lot of their
knowledge or to pass it on orally to someone else. Often, they do not,
because they have to spend their last few days finishing some important
project which draws on their knowledge but does nothing to conserve it for
the company; but at least it is possible. However, anyone who is fired or
laid off must leave immediately, and one the factors a company must
consider when terminating people is this knowledge loss. Too often people
are fired for political or economic reasons by management whose short-term
thinking blinds them to the consequences of their actions.

Marc Sacks


Marc Sacks <msacks@world.std.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>