Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
When I was first diagnosed pre-diabetic, I indulged in three months of intensive tracking and diarizing; my blood sugars, my diet, and how I felt. This sort of furious activity temporarily impresses the professionals. I come in to my appointments with my reams of charts and graphs. So organized. So, dedicated. So... geeky. I don't keep it up forever, though. My inner hedonist wrestles free in time.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
What inspired me to write twice in one day is a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes on page 141 of David Allen's book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity:
I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity - Oliver Wendell Holmes
I believe it may be possible to implement highly simplified structures for an organization, made up of no more than a dozen major categories, and a few places for non-record creations like drafts, reference materials, and templates.
In order to implement simple, however, the organization has to be committed to following clearly outlined business rules, such as regularly filing and keyword indexing business commitments. Everyone must understand what their obligations are in order for all this to work.
Why so much emphasis on the basics? Because with a tightly defined definition of a record, large volumes of incoming information can be cut out of the flow, being redirected to non-record buckets like Reading/Research. I figure with a good definition only about 5% of incoming information needs to be filed. With a reduced volume to organize and structure, records managers and business users have some hope of managing their business through an e-records system.
I've targeted regular exercise as my chief bugbear since hitting the third habit in Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ”. This third habit is “Put First Things First”, managing yourself. The idea is that before you can be effective and influential in your job - out there - in the world - you need to conquer your internal, personal world. Covey asks the reader,
What one thing could you do (you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular
basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?
Covey’s book, originally launched in 1989, was hugely influential and often quoted. I’ve heard anecdotally that fewer people have actually read it from cover to cover. When I read the book in 2008 I found it to be hugely helpful, but I put the book down for a few months when I hit the third habit, putting first things first. The book demands action, and I wasn’t ready to make the change.
That question for habit three put me on hold. I believe it is Covey's call to change personal habits that makes the book difficult; not that the principles themselves are hard to understand.
Once I began the journey to conquer my personal new habit of fitness and exercise, I was able to finish the rest of the book in a few weeks.
Starting new habits and breaking old bad ones is tough. Our bodies quickly get comfortable with routines, and resist change. But regularly raising the bar and incorporating new habits builds strength and invigorates the mind. Have you seen those spry eighty-seven year olds? Wonder how they do it? They’ve incorporated this important lesson of continuous self-improvement.
These days, when the "powers that be" recognize a social problem, their first plan of attack is to educate the public. But personally, I don’t need more education. I know what is good for me. The problem has always been a matter of application, the incorporation of new habits.
My recent discovery is in the application of some tried and true practices to help me build new habits. I attended a once-a-week, six weeks course called “Living Better Every Day ” sponsored by Alberta Health Services, and developed by Stanford’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program . The tools I practiced in the past six weeks have effectively helped me build new habits in to my daily routine. Here are ten steps gleaned from my learning and living in the past few years and months:
- Are you ready to change?
- Develop a SMART action plan for the next week.
- Write your action plan down.
- Keep a log or diary of your progress. I use the carrot.
- Recruit accountability partners (family or friends).
- Review and reflect on your progress weekly, and make adjustments as needed.
- It takes about twenty-one days to turn your new activity in to a new habit.
- Continually review your action plan and targets to keep away boredom, and within a few months you have established a new routine.
- Remember that relapses happen to nearly everyone. Anticipate possible causes for a relapse (i.e. interruptions to routine like holidays) and adjust your plan. After a relapse, create a new action plan without guilt.
- Trust the process. To keep from being overwhelmed, focus on the next action rather than the ultimate goal.
That's it. The work is in the doing, not in the reading. Steps one and two, I would say, are the most critical to success. Be ready and set small, achievable goals and you are well on your way. Occassional intensive diarizing has helped me connect behavior with consequences; first with food, and now with activity. I can no longer brush off that achey, lazy feeling as being "tired". My body, rather, is begging for movement.
Whatever stage you are at in your change journey, I wish you all success and great supporters along the way.
Friday, June 11, 2010
- thecarrot - for diarizing my health and fitness,
- rememberthemilk - for all my to-do and action items, and
- calengoo - out of sheer desperation. More about that later.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
So wrote a designer on planning a kitchen. You can build it fast and cheap, but it won't be everything you dreamed. You can build it fast and beautiful, but it won't be cheap. Or, you can build in everything you ever wanted and at a fair price, but it will be a long, slow process. I love this description because it warns the buyer that there will be compromises, but they still have the power to decide which way they want to go. (Here's a book on kitchen renovations that looks like it provides decent value for the money, Kitchen Redos, Revamps, Remodels, And Replacements: Without Murder, Madness, Suicide, Or Divorce )
Another favorite slogan of mine, from Shel Busey, home repair guru, is "Good, Better, Best". When offering solutions to a caller on his Saturday morning show, he gives them the good, better and best options, and what they get for their money. Again, the power is left in the consumer's hands, and they get a sense of what they are getting for their money.
I wonder as records and information management professionals, if we fail to engage our customer when we demand that the offered solution (such as an ECM implementation) have a perfect score. It may be that the consumer can settle for a less than perfect solution, if it meets their needs and budget. Which leads to the question, can we provide a heirarchy to the principles that an offered solution must meet up to?
I think we can, and while reviewing the eight principles of Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP), I propose the following order of criticality - Availability, Integrity, Protection, Retention, Disposition, Accountability, Compliance and Transparency.
Why did I pick availability as the most critical principle? At the end of the day, if you can't find what you need, you might as well pack it in. This is the reason businesses buy in to our solutions. But even within this principle, we need to engage our customer to find out what level of availability is critical. Can they tolerate delays in locating some types of information? How long can it be; seconds, minutes, hours? Very likely though, if some information falls in to the black hole of "never found again", the proposed solution fails.
About integrity of data, if we can't trust that what we put in stays the same, the system fails. I might point out that even in the paper world, we've never achieved perfect integrity. Check out files that have aged more than ten years. Check the quality of heat-sensitive paper like the receipts from the store, or ageing, brittle newspaper. We have coffee stains. We have bleeding markers. We have illegible handwriting, bad copies, ripped pages. If we have always lived with some degree of failure, can't we tolerate at least the same level of risk in the electronic world? Of course with data, errors loom large. A slip of a key and thousands of records can be lost.
All systems need some protection against unauthorized access. When I relate to levels of protection, I think of the various online registration processes out there. The general process is to provide your e-mail address, some personal information, and a password. Some verifying information is asked for, such as your mother's maiden name. An e-mail is sent to the provided address, confirming the person and place. When you respond by the link provided, you are registered. It is the registrant's responsibility to keep the password private. As hackers and 'bots have gained sophistication, new verifying elements have been added, such as those funny wiggly words.
I'm fairly comfortable in the e-world, and have registered and shopped all over the web. I've breezed through some registration processes, and wept bloody tears through the painful ones. If you would like to sample my pain, try out the Canada Revenue Agency registration process. You will be asked verifying personal information to a degree that reeks of paranoia. Can I even remember the name of my first love? Perhaps their degree of protection is justified. I wouldn't want my tax refund to go to someone else.
Applying Shel Busey's good-better-best principle, a consumer must evaluate their risk of exposure. If there is no money involved, and the personal information mundane (Harry registered for a fishing license), the level of protection does not need to be as secure.
I rated retention and disposition next, for the longevity of the system and protection of the organization in case of litigation. Contrary to the pack rat's base instincts, it is usually not in the organization's best interest to have random aged records hanging around. Once hit with litigation, all disposals are halted, and these bits and pieces of ancient history become potential evidence. Besides the high cost of managing, cataloguing, and referencing this old information, there may be bits of embarrassing comments buried in the muck. So there has to be a facility to retain records only as long as is needed for business purposes. As information professionals, we should be encouraging our businesses to develop simple retention schedules, easily applied. The simpler the schedule, the simpler the application developed to support it.
Accountability, compliance and transparency all have to do with the human element of managing a system. Here are the systems to make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are and are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are all critically important in supporting a high quality information management system. If these principles are critical, why did I rate them last? A consumer is not buying a product to be a watchdog on their own behavior. The assumption always is that everyone knows what they should be doing, and are honorable in fulfilling those duties. Checks and balances are there to catch the exceptions to the rule, the cheaters. Aside from audit logs, the checking of behavior is a matter of good written policy, consistently applied. Don't fault the system for a human failing. Businesses who are dealing with money, personal information, or attractive assets, must have more stringent checks and balances.