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Subject: Re: Why How Matters - a little RAIN drop of sorts
From: WALLIS Dwight D <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 16 Oct 2008 10:22:30 -0700

text/plain (65 lines)

Mary Hilliard wrote:
> As the various houses of cards have
collapsed recently, I have thought about ownership, accountability,
recordkeeping and how the lack of clarity in some of those processes has

Mary, this is one of the reasons why I think our profession does well to
add to our arsenal of positives an emphasis on how records management
can support greater accountability and transparency. 

When our new Chair, Ted Wheeler, came into office a couple of years ago,
we were invited to meet with him and his staff to provide advice on
public records compliance. My input tended to focus on the classic
records management themes of risk and cost reduction. I found the
chair's executive staff nodding in agreement. However, when Terry
Baxter, my partner in crime here in the county, brought up the
importance of public access and accountability, the Chair lit up -
that's when HE started nodding in agreement! That's when the discussion
took off, and the commitments were made.

This pot has been bubbling for a long time, and now may be boiling over.
Like you, Mary, I tend to see records keeping as fundamental to just
about everything. It is certainly fundamental to supporting the
development of transparent and accountable systems. The problem with
this issue is it hasn't always sold well with management. I remember
when too many of our colleagues implied that the value of records
management was that it would prevent an Enron type situation - not
necessarily by improving accountability, but by eliminating - in a legal
fashion - the evidence that may force accountability (wink wink)! The
emphasis was entirely on protecting leaders from legal risk, when
clearly the core problem with Enron and others was simply illegal and
unethical behavior on the part of those leaders. There are, of course,
many legitimate reasons to reduce risk through records management, but
is this any way to promote a profession?

In the example given above, it was the people's representative that
responded and set the tone for management to follow. Ultimately, in a
democratic capitalist society, it's the people and the shareholders to
whom management is held accountable. In times like these, the people and
shareholders begin to make their voices and demands known, and
management complies or losses positions. We can play a key role in
promoting not only costs savings and - yes - risk reduction, but also in
helping to develop and implement systems that deliver the kind of
transparency that our stakeholders are going to increasingly demand. We
should start promoting that, yet I rarely see the issue even mentioned
in our professional literature or on this listserv. Maybe its just too
obvious, but I wouldn't assume others are making the connection. We run
the risk of seeing ownership of this issue taken on by others,
particularly at a time when it is definitely climbing up on people's

Dwight Wallis, CRM
Records Administrator
Multnomah County Fleet, Records, Electronics, Distribution and Stores
1620 S.E. 190th Avenue
Portland, OR 97233
Phone: (503)988-3741
Fax: (503)988-3754
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