Is Your Office an Information Toxic Dump?
By Barbara Hemphill
Kathy is the office
manager for a large corporation. The great news is that the company
is growing and Kathy is looking for employees to handle all the new
clients. The bad news is that she has no office space for these new
employees to work in. The truth is, the office and storage areas are
full of filing cabinets and the desks are covered in stacks of
paper. The worst part is, Kathy and her staff don’t even know what
all that information is. It’s no surprise that Kathy can’t find
space for new employees as she is wasting it with massive amounts of
files and paperwork.
Does your organization have offices, file cabinets, storage
rooms, and offsite facilities full of unidentified paper files and
electronic documents? Are there files in your office that you’ve
never opened and probably can’t identify the contents? Have you ever
come across a piece of information you didn’t know whether to save
or throw away, so you saved it, just in case? If so, you are working
in an “Information Toxic Dump!”
Research shows that
80% of the information kept in most offices is never used.
Ironically, the more information that is kept, the less it is used,
simply because it’s too difficult for employees to find. Often
employees can’t even find the documents they themselves created –
let alone any information created by another employee – especially
someone who is no longer with the organization.
Management Really Matters:
Your ability to
accomplish any task or goal is directly related to your ability to
find the information you need when you need it. Finding information
in every organization – regardless of whether it is in paper or
electronic format -- is becoming an ever-increasing challenge. This
inability to find information causes all sorts of problems for the
organization and for the individual – wasted time looking for
information or recreating already-existing information, missed
opportunities, and increased stress, which results in increased
health care costs.
Responsible for the Problem and What Can Be Done About It?
Blame for the information management debacle falls in several
blames employees for the problem
management for the problem
don’t have a user-friendly system
aren’t trained on the filing systems
fails to look at records management as an ongoing activity
To create and
maintain an effective information management program, you must
answer the following six questions:
information should we keep?
is responsible for maintaining the information?
needs access to the information?
can everyone who needs the information find it?
Answering those six
questions requires the cooperation of everyone in the organization.
It can easily take up to one year, or even longer, to answer them,
since accuracy requires addressing the questions over a one-year
business cycle at a minimum.
Maintaining an Effective Information Management System:
Use The Productive Environment Process™ to implement a
new system. This can be applied to organize information in any
vision. If your information management program is successful,
what will you be able to do that you can’t do now? What positive
effect will an effective information management program have on
the organization and your customers?
obstacles. What currently prevents you from having a successful
resources. How much time, money, and human resource power are
you willing to put into the project.
system. What tools (software, existing filing systems that work
well, etc.) do you currently have that will be helpful in the
process? What other tools are available? What processes do you
need to apply? A crucial component is applying The Art of
Wastebasketry® (see sidebar) to eliminate unnecessary records.
success. What procedures do you need to develop and implement so
the system you create will continue to work long after the
creators of the system are gone?
It would be
wonderful if creating an information management system was simply a
matter of buying a book or hiring an expert who told you exactly
what to do. A successful program, however, requires people,
processes and technology. It must be supported by management,
customized for the organization, and executed by everyone in the
organization to succeed on an ongoing basis.
implementing, and maintaining an effective information management
program is the best place to start on the road to a “productive
environment™” – an organized office in which everyone can find what
they need when they need it so they can accomplish their work and
enjoy their lives. Your employees will have more space to work, stop
wasting time and energy searching for paperwork and get more
Read other articles and learn more about
The Art of
When faced with too
much paper, ask yourself these questions:
Can I identify
a specific use?
Is it difficult
to obtain again?
Is it recent
enough to be useful?
Are their tax
or legal implications?
If the answer is
What is the worst
possible thing that will happen if I toss this?
If you can live
with your answer, toss or recycle it -- and work happily every
(Note: These tips
apply to paper and electronic files!)
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