Managing Records, Managing People

 Last month I attended an All Day Educational Event sponsored by several ARMA chapters in the New York Metropolitan area. The event featured many excellent speakers who presented on topics including e-discovery, privacy of information, information governance trends, the Presidential Records Management Directive (PRMD), and career development and workplace presentation skills. Perhaps breaking good conference protocol, I bounced around and listened to presentations from several of the different designated tracks and attended sessions on executive report writing, navigating achieving the goals of the PRMD, and the future of information governance. Each presentation had a different message, but I still walked away with the same overall takeaway: it’s all about the people.

                As archivists and records mangers we can become narrowly focused on the information that we govern. Appraisal, access, preservation, dissemination, exhibition, retention, disposition, compliance, regulation…on and on we focus on handling the documents and records of which we are custodians. In my experience with other professionals in the field, many of us have an innate sense of value. It’s the degrees of value we discuss in class, but for many of us it’s a natural understanding: informational value, historical value, intrinsic value, administrative value. Most of us just get it, and we care about it too, but it does not come naturally to everybody. So what about those who lack that je ne sais quoi? How can we do what we need to do as professionals if people who create or use records are not engaged?

                This is why archivists and records managers need to be just as skilled at managing people as they are managing information. To be a manager is to guide and to influence, to teach, and to catalyze progress and change when necessary. In a recent RMRT blog post fellow Steering Committee member Christie Peterson wrote with insight about our OTHER skills as records managers. Being an effective manager of personnel should be included in all of our skill sets.

As I’m sure we all have experienced, records, documents, and information can be personal. Within organizations, workflows are unique and individualized. We sometimes have the touchy job of getting in the thick of important business and operations that to others might not seem like OUR business. How can we tell people how to organize their email or use particular file naming conventions? This is where our management skills come in. On top of our know-how of standards and best practices regarding information, we must effectively guide others to work with information from the start of its lifecycle. The buzz of “information governance/IG” seems to incorporate the importance of this active voice of records managers and archivists as key individuals in any organization. Of course, this is all easier said than done. The mix of corporate environments, individual personalities, and general management will make our tasks either harder or easier.

Good records management will boil down to good management of people. We must gently balance our understanding of records value and the great lengths to manage this information, and understanding the needs of the people who create these records by showing up to work every day and doing their job. So, add one more line item to your resume. Even if you are a lone archivist or records manager, you’re still managing and supervising every day.   

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