NJM Consulting | NJMC Institutional Memory Service - Knowledge Management Enhanced
NJMC Institutional Memory Service - Knowledge Management Enhanced
NJMC, PMO, PMOaaS, Institutional Memory Service, Knowledge Management Enhanced, Project Management,
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Institutional Memory Service (I.M.S)

Institutional Memory – Knowledge Management Optimised

NJMC Institutional Memory

Many business processes are transactional in nature – individuals within the organisation draw on institutional knowledge to execute recurring tasks with defined outcomes however many organisations have lost institutional knowledge though the various pathways of staff loss.


In our own experience NJMC found in the area of project/programme management this loss can be felt particularly keenly, more so 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, increasing 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.



Watch our 2 minute video about NJMC Institutional Memory Service – Knowledge Management optimised.

How Does Memory Fail?

The principle reasons for institutional memory loss are:

  1. Work force reductions and cuts to services seen as overheads.
  2. An aging workforce with the most experienced now retiring, a demographic situation that will grow for some years to come.
  3. Use of agency and/or contractor resources.
  4. The knowledge simply residing in the heads, hands, and hearts, not documented.

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.

Real World Experiences


NJMC Institutional MemoryFew 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, .



Example: 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 (Billions of Pounds) as they were the ones having to bail out the flawed and reckless banks. This whole episode also makes one wonder at just what business continuity arrangements they had in place at the time, if any at all.


Example: 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!



Example: Then there is the matter of the Great Western Mainline electrification in the UK. This was a project originally costed at some £800 Million some years ago, whose 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?

Institutional Memory is an Asset That Matters

Our Institutional Memory Service Explained


NJMC now offers an Institutional Memory Service that reduces ongoing expense when there are:


  • Extended peak/trough periods between projects/programmes resulting in dispersion of institutional project/programme experience.
  • Rapid projects/programme  staff churn.


While we recommend our clients build an explicit strategy for maintaining institutional memory within their organisation, we also offer an off-the-peg, four part IM retention solution:


  1. Off-Boarding: As staff leave companies for whatever reason essential and key skills, experience and knowledge are often lost, usually forever. NJMC provide an audio/visual off-boarding process that interviews key staff before their departure, this audio/visual content is then meta-tagged with keywords provided by our client company. In post-production we add the meta-tags and is then entered into the Knowledge Management system. These interviews can often produce results that have uses beyond immediate operation concerns such as useful stories that can be used by marketing teams. These videos can function as short, easy ways to instruct younger workers.  Along with this approach NJMC mentors the departing staff to use the content and knowledge management systems to capture addition experience.
  2. Content Management: SharePoint provides an effective and efficient content management storage solution, but in capturing and indexing relevancy SharePoint fails.  Knowledge Management requires a rigorous system of indexing and searching but here are in SharePoint’s capacity to fulfil that particular mission – however SharePoint offers an effective repository for information. An organization can obtain truly effective content management functionality while continuing to leverage its investment in SharePoint, but by adopting a purpose-built Knowledge Management tool while also maintaining a shared content repository in SharePoint the very best value can be extracted from stored content
  3. Lesson Learnt Database:  A Knowledge Management solution goes beyond the limitations of keyword searching, providing natural language search that allows users to express their search criteria in terms that make sense to them – in their own language. Once the organization’s content is indexed, search will improve continuously over time, as the search engine enhances the indexing as the content evolves and documents become associated with actual questions. Software tools developed specifically for Knowledge Management are effective not only at enabling an agent to find relevant solutions, but also allowing the agent to link the solution easily to the incident or question for which it was effective. That linking statistically reinforces the relevancy of that solution when a similar incident occurs, making it easier to find in the next search. More granular search results: Unlike Microsoft’s own enterprise search engine, search using a true Knowledge Management tool can isolate a relevant passage within a large document; the solution then is not the entire document, but the specific, relevant passage. A dedicated Knowledge Management tool also provides full suite of metrics and reports. Knowledge Management reporting goes far beyond page views and audit logs. Reports designed specifically for Knowledge Management allow tracking of the content most widely used to resolve queries, allowing team leadership to reward contributors of the most valued content and incentivize regular contribution. We have negotiated licensing terms with a partner company that allow our clients very favourable use of the knowledge management tool.
  4. On-Boarding: New PM’s must be briefed about the client’s situation and learn as much as possible about the subject matter before the project kicks off. Of course it’s never possible to be 100 percent “ready”  but steps can be taken to mitigate some of the negative impacts by using a combination of good content management and lessons learnt of previously company history in the PM on-boarding/induction process. A certain amount of learning will always take place during the project but lesson learnt this way are often expense in time and outcomes, far better to make relatively modest investment ahead of potentially terminally costly project failures and make knowledge management part of the resource on-boarding process.

NJMC Institutional Memory Service can be used in conjunction with our other services or as a stand alone.


Please contact us for further information.