Thanks for the memories

PB-logoHere is my December Management Matters column in Prairie Business Magazine

A question that has haunted organizational leaders for decades is: Do we know what we know? Lew Platt, CEO of HP, famously stated, “I wish we knew what we know at HP.” His cunning play on words was a reminder that even the best companies sometimes have hidden knowledge, silos of information, or mountains of unmined data. Executives across the land have invested incredible resources trying to unleash this collective wisdom, often called “organizational memory,” to achieve a competitive advantage.

Ironically, just as many organizations deployed the technology needed to empower their people to access whatever they needed, the world was rocked by WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden and others. It matters not which side of the transparency crusade you are on, these actions changed how organizations share knowledge forever. Today, many leaders fear that disgruntled, disillusioned or dissatisfied workers will, given the opportunity, deliberately release key assets from the organizational memory vault.

The sad but very predictable result is a clamping down on who can access various assets, a de facto return to a need-to-know working philosophy. To many underlings, the swift about turn from an environment of openness, transparency and free sharing to what seems to be a step backwards, is perceived as a lack of trust. What happens next is even more predictable; the most valuable people on your team are no longer on your team. Instead they are working for your competitors, who in turn are thinking, “thanks for the memories … corporate memories that is.” The moral of the story is you must trust your people or they will not be your people.

Speaking of leaving, this is my last column with Prairie Business. My wife JoAnn and I have recently moved to Georgia. Thanks for reading, thanks for the many comments, and thanks for the memories.