Information Governance and the Rolled Up Newspaper

Yes, I know this headline reads something like the title of a Hardy Boys mystery, but it reflects an interesting sidebar that surfaced during yesterday’s AIIM-led #infochat on information governance – much of which centered on the need for training and awareness-building.

As the conversation unfolded, we participants found ourselves softly debating the need for, and overlaps among, formal training, organizational culture change, and the role of policy enforcement when it comes to the need to treat enterprise information with the care it deserves as a fundamental organizational asset.

Analogies immediately began flashing throughout my brain like lightning bolts in the summer sky. Those of you who know me know that I am fond of comparing change management to parenting in terms of the psychological dynamics at work. You also know that I often talk about “managing up” in terms of teaching old dogs new tricks. And so, suddenly, the irony it hit me:

Just as we teach non-housebroken puppies to do their business on the paper, so we must encourage our non-digital users not to.

Now, enlightened pet owners will tell you that rapping your dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper is not effective – and the same is essentially true when it comes to disciplining people for noncompliance. Sure, you may be able to modify the behavior, but chances are that the ultimate outcome will not be the one you really want.

My recommendation is that you install a program of explanation and incentives that make clear just what your expectation is, and why. While dogs don’t understand the rationales we give them – and be honest, we do tell them things as if they were people – users do, and they appreciate being let in on the secret. Rewarding them through recognition, prizes, or even money is the icing on the cake, and this Pavlovian principle has been proven effective time and time again.

Ditching the newspaper and dispensing treats can go a long way toward unifying what otherwise might be separate initiatives for training, culture change, and enforcement. The goal is to turn these into different modes of delivery rather than individual philosophies, and thereby propagate this unified view of the need for governance throughout the organization.

What say you?

About the author: Steve Weissman

Steve Weissman helps you do information right by bringing order and discipline to your governance and process practices. Principal Consultant at Holly Group and Co-Founder of the Information Coalition (now merged with ARMA International), he leverages a proven proprietary methodology to optimize everything from strategic planning and needs assessment to vendor selection and user adoption. He is, in short, The Info Gov Guy™, furthering best-practices for finding, leveraging, and protecting your business-critical information. A member of the AIIM Company of Fellows and holder of numerous industry designations, he can be reached at or 617-383-4655.

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