Downward Spiral of IM

January 20th, 2016

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the one where you forget to set your alarm clock, wake up late, can’t find anything to wear, leave your coffee on the roof of your car as you fly out of your garage, see the familiar-flash of a photo radar camera as you get caught speeding to work, arrive 10 minutes late (and unprepared) for your first meeting…and on and on…until the end of your day where you’re so exhausted and fed up that you declare it as “a really bad day”?  I like to think of those days as “downward spiral days”. What starts off as one delay or setback quickly compounds into a day that seems to spin out of control.  The concept is similar to imagining yourself in a flushing toilet bowl – the water is spinning slowly at first, and you go around and around, then faster and faster, until you get to the bottom where the force is so great that you just can’t pull yourself back out.  Hence, the downward spiral.

I have recently used the downward spiral concept to help describe what happens in some organizations when they don’t have an “Information Management” plan in place:

  1. An employee receives or creates information.  The information can come via a document (paper or electronic), an email, the amalgamation of other information, or perhaps something new altogether.
  2. The employee saves the information. Sometimes on a shared or network drive, sometimes in email, or an ECM system, or to the cloud or on a PC hard drive, or, or, or.
  3. Someone else comes along either looking for that specific information (I know Susie wrote a document about topic X) or with a more general request (what does our organization know about topic X?).
  4. If that individual doesn’t have access to the source information, then he or she will end up back to step 1 – either receiving a copy of the information from someone else or recreating it, then making a decision about where to save it (step 2), etc., etc., etc.  The circle can continue until employees are drowning in information.

The impact of the Downward Spiral of Poor Information Management in many organizations can be significant:

  • Inefficiency (time spent looking for information, recreating information)
  • Low trust (questions about the completeness and accuracy of information used to make decisions)
  • Legal and regulatory risk (holding onto information too long or not long enough)

In addition, the larger the volume of unmanaged information, the more daunting the task of cleaning it up becomes…which further magnifies the problem.

Written by Tara Dragon.