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Goulash and Knowledge Management: how to pass on your heritage

1 November 2019
Dana Neuman- Rotem
beef stew

Like many Israelis, I spent the holiday season abroad on a brief vacation. I was looking for a low-cost, nearby location recommended by my friends. And so, enchanting Budapest was selected. In hindsight I can say that I did not realize how meaningful this trip would be for both my husband and me.

Our four-day vacation quickly became a journey to our Hungarian heritage. As both our Grandmothers were Hungarian, this trip was very emotional. Everything reminded us of our childhood at Grandma's house: the stories came alive, the language, the people. But most of all we were swept away by the scents and flavors. The goulash, the nokedli and even the desserts were reminiscent of my grandmother's cooking.

During our trip I found myself filled with a sense of pride. I couldn't stop thinking what a rich heritage my grandmother  left behind and how meaningful it is to us all. When we returned home to our daily routines, I still kept asking myself: what is a heritage? How is it created? Whose responsibility is it to create one?

I decided to look up the term 'heritage': A tradition; a practice or set of values that is passed down from preceding generations through families or through institutional memory (Wiktionary).

Every family has its heritage passed on from one generation to the next. What about organizations? Do organizations bear a heritage?

The more I reflect on this subject, the more I realize: yes, organizations have a heritage. Organizations manifest all characteristics mentioned above: a language, culture, history and oral/written history. Passing on this heritage depends on us as it is in our power to pass on our skills and knowledge

So, whose responsibility is it to pass on the heritage?

Is it the organization's responsibility, i.e. management should demand its managers to implement its culture and supporting work routines? While this is a solution, it is far from exclusive. We managers have a role to play, since every manager wants to know that their work over the years in the organization was important and essential. Any manager wants to know that they've successfully instilled values which have survived their departure.

I am all positive that anyone would be proud if their successors would act according to work procedures written by them. Anyone would love to hear that their risk management report has been used in current projects that didn't exist at their time.

I always say that I've learned from each and every manager. I hope that everyone working under me have learned from me, adopting tools and approaches. Although I know we are all unique, I hope that my heritage has been successfully passed on to my successors, colleagues and in some cases, those working under me. My heritage is what I've left behind: work procedures, overlap books and insights I've shared.

Much before I came a KM consultant, I was retaining my own knowledge. I wasn't yet familiar with the term 'knowledge retention', but I surely have been focused on creating my own heritage.

Some tips for creating a legacy. These tips suit any position in your organization:

  • Document your team's goals and objectives

  • Formulate a set of work routines and principles as procedures

  • Create a list of insights and attach it to the documentation of the project or work process. Remember: even recommendation that are currently nor applicable may become relevant in the future.

  • Organize the organizational folder, so that people who aren't familiar with the team can find any file simply and easily.

  • Before leaving your position, it's best to write an overlap book for your replacement. Make sure to provide your superior with one as well.

and a valuable tip…

A heritage can be cultivated through simple customs and occasional rituals. These rituals, which don't have to be associated with any national heritage, are the basis of any legacy. For example, a monthly positive feedback to an outstanding worker or team. This positive feedback can be reinforced by giving said worker/team a treat. Tradition is created by repeating the act and is an integral part of your legacy.

I highly recommend generating your own heritage by sharing and retaining your knowledge.

P.S. if all this reading about Hungarian cuisine has made you hungry, here's an authentic recipe for Hungarian goulash:



3 medium onions, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 medium green peppers, chopped

3 pounds beef stew meat

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 garlic clove, minced

Dash sugar

12 cups uncooked whole wheat egg noodles

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Place the onions, carrots and green peppers in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Sprinkle meat with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a large skillet, brown meat in oil in batches. Transfer to slow cooker.

Add broth to skillet, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Combine the flour, paprika, tomato paste, caraway seeds, garlic, sugar and remaining salt and pepper; stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Pour over meat. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours or until meat is tender.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Stir sour cream into slow cooker. Drain noodles; serve with goulash.

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