Keep Calm and Carry On

Stuck in the Middle (of Information Management) With You

If you’re reading this, you already know how valuable it can be to better manage your organization’s business-critical information, and improve the business processes that make that information available to those who need it, when they need it. (Information governance to the rescue!)

If you’ve tried doing this, then you probably also know how hard it can be to convince your higher-ups that it’s worth the time and effort to achieve these outcomes – and you may have experienced resistance from the ranks as well, where the attitude tends to be: “What do you know about how I do my job?!”

The question then is, “how do I soften this rock and hard place so I don’t get squeezed in the process?”

Look Up

Like as not, the people above you on the org chart have broader company responsibilities than you do, be they managerial, fiscal, technological, legal, etc. Their individual bailiwicks notwithstanding, their collective focus tends to run toward the betterment of the bottom line and perhaps the boosting of shareholder value – and the more direct the effect a given improvement has on these measures, the better.

Capturing their hearts and minds therefore requires ditching much of the indirect “motherhood and apple pie” arguments that are so often used to promote the latest information management practices, and replacing them with solid performance metrics. Traditional ROI can be tricky to calculate (we prefer our own MAXTV™ methodology for this, but that’s a story for another time), but time and labor savings, process efficiency upgrades, and risk reduction are good places to start this particular conversation.

Look Down

Meanwhile, many of the people next to and below you on the org chart are less interested in the corporate good than they are their daily work. Whereas you and your senior executives may think of yourselves as pursuing a career, these good folk consider themselves as doing a job – one major difference being that you’re working to improve the company’s future while they’re working for a more comfortable present.

What this means for you is that you have to think in terms of what’s in it for them, not the organization, in order to capture their attention and – knock wood! – gain their support. They won’t argue if you talk about how information governance is good for the company, but they may actually get excited if you show them how much easier it will be to find the information they need, right when they need it, under the new routines.

Look Out

Now, the sad truth is that you can try all this and still find yourself firmly stuck between an indifferent management team and an insular work force. At their worst, I’ve seen these kinds of efforts trigger political warfare as managers battle over turf and internal committees fight for influence. (Once, a client of mine got fired midway through our project. She was a class act, though, and invited me to join her and her husband for dinner before I flew home.)

Happily, the more typical scenario is a lot less contentious, as business merely continues as usual while you win some and you lose some in the name of infogov. For many, it’s two steps forward and one back, so progress gets made but at a somewhat slower pace than may be optimum.

Keep Calm and Carry On

These situations can be maddeningly frustrating. (One time, a client left to take a new job between project phases just for the opportunity to get something done.) The trick, though, is to maintain an even keel so the frustration doesn’t lead you to say or do things you’ll regret, and/or give the folks up and down the food chain a reason to tune you out.

Sometimes, this is easier said than done, I know. But it still is worth it in the long run, isn’t it? Especially in an organization whose culture is more open to the kind of change you’re advocating. For as we stated at the top of this piece, you know how valuable it can be to better manage your organization’s business-critical information, and improve the business processes that make that information available to those who need it, when they need it.

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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