The Psychology of Records Management: Records Managers – What ARE You Thinking?

Craig Grimestad

It is not easy to be a Records Manager at this time in history, given the evolution of Records and Information Management (RIM) from primarily the management of off-site storage, to the governance of records, and now to the governance of Official Records as corporate assets. RIM is destined to evolve into an esteemed corporate discipline that assures that records are managed in a way that provides for efficient business operation, satisfaction of legal and regulatory requirements, and risk avoidance from having too few or too many records – all at minimal cost. Increasingly, RIM requirements and processes will be monitored vigilantly and audited periodically to confirm compliance. RIM management will participate in business development [what information must be captured and in what form will the Official Record(s) be established?] and will also actively participate in selection and establishment of business applications, databases, and records repositories (does the technology facilitate or at least make it easy to store and dispose of Official Records and/or copies?). This is the future of Records and Information Management – is that what you’re thinking?

Well, you say – “That’s not where I live – no, that’s not what I’m thinking – I have trouble getting individuals to fill out transmittal sheets, or to place Official Records in the correct repository, or to understand they shouldn’t keep every record they ever touched. What else should I be thinking?”

Well, understanding the value of RIM, you are the one best able to guide your company to that future state, even while struggling through the every day issues. The flag of Records Management will never fly at the top of the pole but you should be able to obtain resources (budget and manpower) for specific tasks, especially if your management team recognizes that its records are key business assets. So what should you be thinking?

You should be thinking:

  • I have an essential role to guide and move my company forward in the identification, selection and implementation of Records and Information Management requirements, tools, and processes.
  • I have knowledge and understanding that needs to be absorbed and acted upon by employees, not just communicated.
  • I need to be a visionary, teacher, coach, motivator, facilitator, guide, encourager, problem solver, and helper.
  • Implementation must be complete and comprehensive – Finding an old copy of a record in an obscure location, is no different than finding the original posted on a bulletin board. It does no good to be rid of almost all copies.
  • No exemptions from requirements. Exceptions may be given for specific reasons, and for specific periods of time, with identified corrective action, but no exemptions.
  • We don’t do Records and Information Management to satisfy legal and regulatory requirements. RIM requirements, tools, and processes are efficiency improvements that enable the company to be more profitable and the employees more productive. We do RIM to efficiently run the business, make money, and satisfy our customers. Along the way, we satisfy legal and regulatory requirements also.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive RIM governance program is a cultural change – culture shock for some. It changes what, and therefore who, is valued. Commonly, individuals are found within companies that have “kept it all” and gained a reputation as the “Font of Knowledge”. With the arrival of professional RIM management, these employees are required to give up their personal historic archive, placing Official Records in an authorized repository, and disposing of convenience copies when they have no personal need of them or the retention requirement has passed.   Cultural change is often the cause of pushback and resentment. When individuals argue or complain about the smallest details or insignificant points – look to the impact on them or their job for the real source of difficulty. Next time we’ll hear from an expert in cultural change, reviewing his “Rules of the Road” for cultural change.

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