Thursday, September 27, 2007

"How come if you know so much stuff, you can't do 6th grade math?"

Thus were uttered words of wisdom from the ten year old who lives in my house.

Context: A couple weeks ago, we were working out her 5th grade math homework assignment (word problems still tend to cause my brain to turn to jelly) and I made the offhand comment that she was on her own after 6th grade for math problems. (Actually, the wheels come off early into Algebra, but I wanted to exceed her expectations down the road -- and besides, Algebra seems to show up earlier and earlier.

Anyway, we were in the car and I had just spent the better part of ten minutes walking my wife through the ins and outs of Workers' Comp claims. She was a bit dazed by the information download and asked me how I knew all that stuff... "You'd be amazed at what I pick up from dealing with records all day." She was... and then the title of the post was heard from the peanut residing in the gallery called the back seat.

That caused me to reflect upon my day. Earlier in the day, I had done just about the same thing to an IT manager. She came in to my office wanting what she perceived to be a simple answer to a simple question, "We're imaging contracts. Can we toss the paper?" Well, as many of you might know, that can yield the inevitable "it depends" answer, which is then followed by 20 to 30 questions about the imaging process, the nature of the records, the attitudes of the records owners, and the current state of litigation involving the records. I had way more questions than she had answers. That was the first dazed look of the day that I received.

Now this isn't intended to be a "see how smart I am" post. Rather, I think it points out the many things that the records management professional brings to the table. There are just an incredible number of issues and skillsets that you master over time in this profession. Records are the common thread between all parts of an organization. The best part of being a Records Manager is getting to see every nook and cranny of the organization (often, quite literally). If you do this job well (and correctly), you're able to put a lot of the pieces together. And if you pay attention, you might even learn something.

This past afternoon, I had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at ARMA's long-awaited Records and Information Management Core Competencies document (the Competencies will be officially released during the ARMA Conference in Baltimore). I poked around the document for a few minutes, looking at the incredibly detailed body of knowledge that records professionals at various stages of professional growth should know.

You know what? We need to know a lot of stuff. My sense and concern, however, is that many records professionals may be challenged and discouraged when they crack open that nearly 90 page PDF document. If you happen to be one of those folks, don't be discouraged. Look at the competencies as a roadmap. When you have a roadmap in hand, you can see ALL of the paths to your destination. Furthermore, what you will have is a standardized way to measure yourself and your position against other professionals and their positions. One of the big challenges that we have had in this profession is the inconsistency of job titles and job descriptions. Guess what? You will be able to build a standard job description and set of responsibilities from the Competencies document. And, in 2008, you'll be able to go online and perform a self-assessment against the Competencies.

Over time, it is my hope that the HR world will be able to adopt the Competencies to help classify positions in their organizations. The Competencies will also, hopefully, tie directly into the US Standard Occupational Classification listings for records professionals, if we are successful in getting additional professional positions listed. Lastly, we're also now in the position of being in a place where we can do proper salary surveys for the profession, since we now have standard definitions of the level of responsibility, knowledge, and competence required at various stages of the career ladder. These are extraordinary opportunities for ARMA and for the profession.

One of the messages that I want to make certain that people hear when we talk about the Competencies is the fact that these were developed through an extraordinarily rigorous process over two years. This process had every bit of the rigor of an ANSI or ISO Standard. More than 300 subject matter experts contributed to the production of the Competencies. These individuals work in a wide variety of industries and roles. Without their efforts, the Competencies would not have been developed. All of us owe them an incredible amount of gratitude.

Going forward, ARMA will directly tie our educational offerings and Bookstore to the Competencies. If you need to fill a gap, you should be able to readily identify an educational offering, publication, or article that will deliver the information that you need to close the gap.

I'm really excited about the Competencies. If you're a records management professional, I encourage you to set aside some time during October to download a copy of the Competencies and start checking off the elements that describe you -- as well as the elements that describe where you want to be. Use the Competencies to create your own roadmap. Use them to create your own goals for development. I really think that you will benefit from the exercise.

There are things that many of us will never master -- in my case, advanced mathematics and foreign languages -- but through ARMA International's Records and Information Management Core Competencies, we all have the opportunity to identify what we know, as well as what we want to know.

No comments: