"We make doors and windows for a room. But it is the spaces that make the room livable. So it is that, while the tangible offers us advantages, it is the intangibles that present usefulness."
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, circa 600 B.C.

A decade into the twenty-first century, we continue to struggle with the basic premise of Lao Tzo's insight. Structure is important and can be beautiful in itself. But, ultimately, structures exist to provide something more. 

Political ideologies, economic theories, governance models, social movements and even families are given shape according to the rules and frameworks we build. Why? Our structures provide the space in which ideas and opportunities can be realized. 

Structural elements can be more readily recognized and understood in ways that ideas cannot. Perhaps inevitably, in the press of daily tasks, the focus may shift from the challenge of realizing an idea to the maintenance of those structural elements.  Structure stands in place of the as yet unrealized potential, easier to point to and defend. The vision may become mere slogan, its intent fading into the background as an assumed result of an unknown future time. 

This issue is explored in a new online course and accompanying text that is currently under development within the IRM Strategies imprint. The Klaris Strategy (working title) integrates organizational development and recorded information for knowledge resource management.

To contribute to the progress of this work, please contact John James O'Brien.

It never ceases to amaze me that KM practitioners and academicians, by and large, seem not to recognize the domain of (multiple media) records management.

Failure to link a conceptual grasp of KM to the practical effort that is required to manage evidence of actual practice is both common and tragi-comic. Ah....but then, I am only on my first cup of coffee of the day.
 CNBC reports that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is taking a radical departure from past Yahoo practice, calling all staff back into the office and eliminating the "work at home" model.

As a leader, manager and advisor fully conscious that most of my own work-at-home hours took place in addition to long days in the office, I see Mayer's action as sending an important message--but otherwise not addressing the real problem.

When employees do not deliver from home, they're unlikely to deliver at work. Slackers are slackers, workers are workers, and HR models and workplace norms too often enable the former at the expense of the latter--right there in the office!

A critical issue is the lack of meaningful performance indicators and measure that guide practice, ensure transparency and accountability. It's a good idea to involve employees in developing these, but doing so is a management responsibility.

Calling everybody back to the office is an easy "fix" that ultimately fails. It plays well among many...but as an ongoing strategy, this looks like lazy leadership. I'll give Ms. Mayer the benefit of the doubt in the hope that she's got more going for her than a hope that increasing office space and filling it with unhappy people will change an unproductive workforce to a productive one. But I wonder, how will she know?


Can there be governance without records?

The Province: Michael Smith calls out "no record" governance as a result of British Columbia's response to requests made under the Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy act.

The BC Government used to be a leader in the management of recorded information resources internationally. I should know, I was one of those working to build the infrastructure (logical and operational)  for advanced records management during the mid-1980s.  Conceptual developments no doubt contributed to thinking that saw the torch passed to Australia. But, BC still has leading edge thinkers in this domain. Sadly,  recorded information management (a.k.a. records management or records and information management) is neglected in management training.

"No records" = no management.

Systems vs. systems

It has been a busy time with a major project ending in Cyprus overlapped with the progress of a house-gutting renovation in Canada ... no wonder I'm behind in my writing!

But sometimes, ya just gotta comment.  This morning I was checking into one of my twitter accounts (there's one in my own name and another for my design interest, gardenoaksDOTca).  Initially I had registered with a different email address in anticipation of a different account.  Today, "the system" tried several times to force me into an account I did not want to access.

I am about fed up with "smart systems" that relentlessly prove to be stubborn, rather than intelligent.

We can't do much without systems. They enable consistency, transparency, accountability.  But there is a big difference between the system that enables and the system that inhibits.  Over and over again, I see a focus on the executable aspect of electronic systems at the expense of meaningful attention to the enabling, governance aspect of systems.

It's a recipe for failure that is too often not understood as such by the consumer.  But then, a cynic might suggest it is more a recipe for the next sale.

Common problems in RIM programs

 The management of recorded information resources demands attention to your business, not somebody else's.  

Imposing solutions designed for another context will not meet the needs of your own unique environment.  Strategically, it may backfire, losing support that you might otherwise have gained.
Four problems that are often observed are summarized below.
  • Reliance on third-party, out of context policies
  • Reliance on generic retention policies and approaches
  • Focus on records instead of their place in achieving outcomes (products and services)
  • Data gathering limited to domestic rather than international experience and contexts


Authenticity demands consciousness

“The whole world has undergone a change of enormous significance that affects all communications, literature and information. There has been a shift from a culture in which written documents were essentially stable and permanent, to a culture in which all writing is ephemeral, dependent on complex and expensive machinery, and in which no record will survive except as the result of deliberate, specific, expert and continued efforts toward preservation. It is hard to foresee all the results of such a far-reaching change.”

Cook, M. 2004. Research in Integrated Management and Services for Urban Development records Archives
Communication: English is, I like to say, an imprecise language with meanings seen in general parlance that differ (sometimes dramatically) from what things purpost to mean. This way lies misunderstanding.

In an interesting exploration
of the meaning of dialogue, David Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garrett touch on aspects that may reveal why society (whether in the workplace or private life) prefers conversation to dialogue.

What do you think?