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Records Managers are the Original Knowledge Managers

I had an interesting conversation with two very intelligent and motivated gentlemen yesterday morning to discuss the focus and purpose of DoD 5015.02-STD. That is a series of blog posts itself.

Bumper Stickers

At the end of the conversation, Mark mentioned that if we (Records Managers) can link into the current buzz over Knowledge Management, maybe we could get a sympathetic ear. I responded that Records Managers are the Original Knowledge Managers. We agreed that it would be a great bumper sticker.

Traditional Records Keeping

Traditionally Records Keepers have been perceived as specialized admin assistants or glorified file clerks. Remember the Dilbert cartoon of the young man in the Records Center? He is shown tossing the folder he had just received into the trash, saying, “This job got easier once I found out no one ever comes back for anything.” That cartoon illustrates the frustration felt on both sides of that counter. The engineer drops something there because he was forced to and he didn’t “need” it any more and the clerk was not valued for his skills in organizing and retrieving contextually relevant information in a timely manner.

Traditional records keeping was paper-based and centrally controlled. If someone needed to go “to the archives,” they had some expectation that the information they needed was there and the archivist/file clerk would hold the secrets to retrieving it.

Decentralization

With the onset of computerization, people insisted on having their information available at a keystroke, so records keeping was decentralized. Unfortunately, while organizations appreciated the ability to downsize records centers, they did not re-allocate those resources to raising awareness of records responsibilities through out the workforce and actual management of digital records has mostly been an illusion for several decades.

Managing Knowledge

First we need to define the term “knowledge.” For the purposes of this posting, let us assume that it is the collection of information generated and owned by the organization and its people. This includes records and non-record materials (references, personal papers, etc). It may also include “compostables” such as non-focused IM chats, opinion blogs, and notices of human interest that are good for morale and team building, but have little official corporate value.

Compostables have huge value for very short durations, because they stimulate creativity and critical thinking during events that cannot be recreated, such as brainstorming, mind-mapping, and fractal thinking. But, they have no long term value and may actually be detrimental if not removed from the info pile. They are hard to categorize and usually don’t fit within any specific context that could be recreated for enlightenment during future work. They are subject to being taken out of context and used with bad intent.

Reference materials should be kept around until they are no longer needed. These are things like algorithms or blueprints.

Personal Papers are just that, copies of travel vouchers, pay stubs, emails sent to friends and family members.

Records are trustworthy documentation of business transactions and decisions. Proof that the government is “working.” (No jokes, please;-)

Since I am records-focused, I would propose that if we look at things from a records perspective, which means identifying, capturing, storing, protecting, finding, retrieving and destroying records, we can apply those same ideas to other types of knowledge.

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Records Managers ARE the Original Knowledge Managers!!

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