Institutional Memory and Agency Capacity to Implement Water Quality Policies
Papperman, Anna L.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Knowledge management practices, or tools to retain the wealth of knowledge held by employees, have been studied in business and management, but few articles have addressed the impacts of knowledge management in natural resource agencies. This is particularly important given high turnover and low hiring rates. This study applies the organizational management concept of knowledge management to natural resources agencies, and investigates how institutional knowledge, turnover, and low hiring rates constrain or enhance respondents’ capacity to impact water quality. Data were collected through twenty-one interviews with water quality professionals in the Upper Rock River and Red Cedar River Watersheds of Wisconsin. Interviews were recorded and transcribed for analysis. Data were categorized according to participant answers to interview questions and frequency counts of categories were performed to highlight the differences between the study areas as part of a comparative case study approach. Results indicate that many of the respondents see turnover as a major issue while few see it as beneficial. The high turnover and low hiring rates have resulted in the loss of institutional knowledge and relationships with stakeholders or clients. Results also indicate that few respondents use knowledge management tools to save information. Recommendations for natural resources organizations and individuals to save institutional knowledge in a usable, accessible manner include contact lists, standardized project forms, employee experience reports, and annual organizational reviews. The tools have been developed with consideration for the ease of implementation, risk of implementation, cost (monetary and time), ease of use, and barriers to use.