Closing Remarks – “Info Speaks” April 12, 2016

Delivered by Anne Hepplewhite, Incoming Chapter President

There is a character on AMC’s popular zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead who makes me think about the situation Records and Information Managers often find ourselves in.  The character’s name is Enid and she is a young woman and is on her own out in the wilderness.  Her family has not survived the apocalypse and she is introduced to the audience through the cryptic message she scrawls on just about anything she can find – in the sand, etched into windows, carved into wood.  The message is JSS and it stand for Just Survive Somehow.

 Too often, this position of defensiveness is where records and information manager find ourselves.  However, the overwhelming message that came out of the last two days was that is not the right approach.  We sell ourselves short.  We’re more valuable than just surviving, in fact we protect, preserve and make accessible the very fabric of our organizations.  Maybe our motto could be boiled down to something quite simple:  BE HELPFUL.

 Over the past two days, we have talked about the core of what we do – we help people to find the information they need to do their jobs.

 Ulla de Stricker set the tone of the conference by reminding us that culture is the most important factor in determining the success of an information management initiative in an organization.   What are we here to do?  We are the efficiency experts; here to make things easier for our customers and our customers are our colleagues.

 We are the ones who walk the process and make sense of it, we study the documents that support the business.  We help our customers (our colleagues) to work better, to make better decisions based on evidence, to pay attention to the habits of their customers and colleagues.

 Mary Wiley told us about the work of Niagara Connects and evidence based decision in the community and among communities.  In her data centred work, she emphasized that the collective impact model is about people, building trusted relationships.

 Trevor Banks challenged us to think (and think hard) about what our audience wants and expects and to ensure that whatever “solution” we are pitching meets their needs.  Creating desire for change is the key to effective awareness.

 Jane Lockard wished us a safe flight, after ensuring that we had done our homework, knowing our audience and helping them to solve their problems.  Not creating new problems for them that fits the solution we have to sell.

Chris Wynder reminded us that we need to make solutions easy – we should design for the laziest person in the room; another way of saying – don’t make work – make life easier.

 Ruth Unrau and our panel on gender neutrality bravely took on the elephant in the server room and provided a balanced and safe place to talk about our feelings about gender issues in the workplace.

 Paul Shipway reinforced the messages of day one by explaining that it’s not necessary to “sell” RM itself; it’s more important to prove RM helpful to others in doing their jobs.  I think we were all impressed that this CAO was an impassioned supporter, even evangelist of RM.  He offered concrete and specific examples of how RM saved his municipality money and made it run more efficiently.

Ilidia sa Melo emphasized the requirement that any change management process focuses on commitment versus compliance.  We know that forcing a solution will not breed high user adoption or goodwill.

 Terry Pruner had us look at ourselves, and our emotional and social intelligence.  It’s important to think about the style and motivation of your co-workers, customers and team and adjust your style to accommodate their needs.  Don’t be “that guy:”  the miserable one who brings everyone down.  (No one likes that guy)  The absence of disease is not health; just doing the same old thing he same old way may not seem negative, but if we don’t try new things, new ways of working, we won’t know what’s possible.

 One of the new things that we ought to be thinking about is the future proofing of our documentary legacy.  Records and information management professionals cannot ignore the danger of losing access to our records as the technology was used to produce them is improved upon and eventually left behind.  We need to think, now, about our future.  We have close allies in the archival community who are working hard on these issues, and we need to work together to serve this need for our future customers.

You can start by accessing the Digital Preservation Maturity Model and do a self assessment.  Try it out – it’s free and can serve to create a baseline for your organization.

So, carrots are clearly more effective than sticks.  Demonstrating value is important.

 Use your knowledge, skills and abilities to be helpful.  Help your organization be lean; help your co-worker.  Start with the person sitting next to you.  Don’t participate in or tolerate information hoarding; show leadership by showing, gently and by example, how sharing information benefits everyone.

 I’d like to close with a quote from a very wise man: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”   I think it’s great that children are exposed to the wisdom of Dr. Seuss early in life, so they can hold those messages close for their entire lives.

 So, go out there and learn.  Try new ideas and, I hope, on behalf of the ARMA Southwestern Ontario Board, that you’ll find your way back to one of our events and you’ll share your experience, that we’ll grow this community of practice and we’ll help each other to succeed.