Managing Organizational Forgetting

Martin de Holan, Pablo, Phillips, Nelson and Lawrence, Thomas B. (2004) Managing Organizational Forgetting. MIT Sloan Management Review, 42 (5). pp. 45-51.


From 1995 to 1999, we conducted field research on seven international hotels in Cuba. Six of those facilities were under the umbrella of an international strategic alliance between a major Cuban hotel chain and two foreign partners — large Western hotel chains respected for their extensive expertise in the management of hotels around the world. The seventh hotel, which was fully owned and operated by the Cuban hotel chain (and therefore had no formal contact with any foreign organization), was used as a reference. Each of the hotels was independently managed and operated as a semiautonomous business unit. They were either newly constructed or recently reopened after several years of remodeling and renovating, providing what we considered to be ideal environments for studying organizational learning (and forgetting), because we could observe those organizations as they worked to improve their level of service from very low initial levels.

The project, conducted in collaboration with the Universidad de la Habana, relied on the case-study methodology. We gathered data mainly by interviewing management personnel, frontline employees and customers at each of the facilities. The employees were asked questions such as: How has your function changed? How were the changes implemented? Could you give examples of changes that were not successful? Was there a common reason for those failures? In total, we conducted 78 interviews, with an average duration of about 90 minutes. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed by software that helped to identify and group common issues. To verify the information provided in the interviews, we drew on a range of other material, including training manuals, letters and internal memos. The data allowed us to observe and trace the creation, transfer and loss of knowledge from the very early stages when problems and issues arose to the latter stages when solutions were implemented. To supplement that research, we also conducted several smaller, more informal studies that explored the various aspects of organizational forgetting in companies.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Competitive Analysis, Corporate Learning, Information Management, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Managerial Psychology, Organizational Psychology
Subject(s): Strategy; Entrepreneurship & Global business
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2015 10:51
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2016 17:26
Funders: N/A

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