As the supplier of this information, you will say “No problem! I will email it to you right away” and happily run to your office, open your mailbox, create a new mail, attach a file and hit “send”. Life is good, you just made upper management happy within 2 minutes flat and not only do you think you are due for a raise, but you also have some time for the game of golf you were planning anyway. You should actually now be driving off in your dream car to the tune of “Drive all night” from Celine Dion, with a grin on your face. But then you wake up…
Sleep is eluding you at the moment, your appetite is gone and you can feel yourself aging 1 year each minute. The reason for this insomnia and rapid aging is simple. You have been asked for the information but you have no idea where to find it.
Sure you have some information captured on a database somewhere and you know that you emailed a letter to someone at some stage, there was a conversation in the hallway and it was confirmed in a letter sent to the customer and there must be a copy on file. You know all these things, but the file has mysteriously left the building under an assumed name and cannot be traced.
Somehow you doubt that “Your honour, I did send a letter, and he did sign for it and we even shared a joke afterwards. I remember it well” is not going to be the right way to go. You need proof. You have been searching for the file for a few days now and the number of emails that you have received about this claim is filling up your inbox at such a rate, that you need to archive your mails every 20 minutes.
Just before sunrise, as a last resort, you visit the filing room again; you are dragging your feet, because today is the day that you will have to admit to the fact that the file is gone. You are now going through all the “what if’s” again.
What if we treated our documents as information and not just something that needs to be put away?
What if we had proper processes in place and had people trained on how the processes work?
What if I did take that meeting to discuss document control, instead of the golf date?
What if I did approve the proposal to scan all our documents and stored the originals off-site?
It has taken you a while to realise it, but your failure to treat your documents as information, could now potentially cripple the company. One piece of paper that you cannot lay your hands on is now haunting you.
You walk into a still dark filing room and you are now starting the call the file by its name. Maybe it will hear you and jump out from wherever it is. We still live in the age of miracles, right?
After spending the best part of an hour there you realise that this is a lost cause. You have to now face the music and “These shoes are made for walking” sounds if it will fit the bill.
The shmuck in the office next to you walks in all bright and breezy and greets you with his hateful optimism. All you can muster is a grunt.
You take your seat behind your desk and start packing your belongings into a small box. Mister Happy from next door pops his head into your office.
“Hi, I hear you have been looking for this file and it was under a pile on my desk. Sorry.” He says, drops the file on your desk and walks out.
You start kissing the file, and hugging it to your chest, kissing it again and calling it all kinds of pet names. People line up outside your office door to look at this and they are all in agreement – you have finally lost it.
What they don’t understand, is that you have finally found it and that is all that matters. You can try and restore your reputation as a sane, individual tomorrow, but for now. You have your information.
You look at the pale yellow cover and it feels like the first time you saw your wife. This must be love. You are so happy that you want to run in slow motion to the soundtrack of “Chariots of Fire”, but only after you have beaten Mister Happy into a pulp to the music of “Eye of the Tiger”.
After you delivered the file and are happily sitting in your office, you realise that there are some lessons learned from this experience.
• Treat documents as information
• Don’t give anybody access to original documents (especially your neighbour)
• Scan your documents and send the originals for safe storage off-site
• Employ qualified people to manage your documents
• Put processes in place and communicate those processes to everybody and the process does not include, using a file as a doorstop.
• Investigate and implement a Electronic Document Management System that suits your needs
• And last but not least, update your music collection because you are clearly stuck in the ‘80’s.