This chapter presents four different scenarios, each relating to the implementation of a new information management initiative. The four scenarios are: establishing a special library service, developing a business case of a digital library, implementing an electronic document and records management system and establishing an in-house archival repository. Each scenario is considered in the context of four contrasting organisational types. For each setting, the main issues are identified and appropriate strategies to gain organisational acceptance are suggested.
This chapter considers four information management activities, and the issues and challenges faced in their implementation in different organisational cultures. These activities are: establishing a special library service, developing a business case for a digital library, implementing an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), and establishing an in-house archival repository. The four broad types of organisations (village market, family model, full bureaucracy and well-oiled machine) introduced in Chapter 2 are used to provide a consistent set of variable settings in which to review each activity. In the real world, of course, complexities relating to the different occupational cultures also present within organisations would also have to be taken into account. Before presenting the scenarios, the main features of the organisational types are summarised.
These four organisation types were first described by Dr Richard Mead, who categorised them as bureaucratic models (Mead, 2005: 181). ‘Bureaucracy’ is not used in a pejorative sense, but as a generic term encompassing all organisations that apply rules to govern the behaviour of their members. The type and extent of these rules (or policies) reflect the type of organisation. The Dutch anthropologist Geert Hofstede associated each bureaucratic model with correlations of national cultural rankings on the dimensions of power distance and uncertainty avoidance. The features of each model are described below, and indications given as to where in the world these organisation types are likely to be situated. As with all discussions of national culture, it must be emphasised that identifying specific countries or regions should not be taken to mean that all organisations located there will be of the same type. However, it is more likely that a certain type will be represented, or may even predominate, in that location.
This bureaucratic model is likely to be found in countries where there is a correlation between a low ranking on the power distance dimension together with a low need to avoid uncertainty about the future. So this organisation type is most likely in countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand. A characteristic feature is that more importance is likely to be accorded to relationships between people, than to rules and regulations (Mead, 1990: 26) thus influence may be negotiated across departmental lines. Richard Mead describes the underlying philosophy as ‘If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ (Mead, 2005: 181).
In Chapter 2 I identified the main features of organisational work that may impact on information management, based on Hofstede’s analysis. Those characteristics for the marketplace bureaucracy are as follows:
At the opposite extreme to the marketplace bureaucracy is the full bureaucracy. This organisational model is typical in countries which have a high ranking on the power distance dimension, with a similarly high ranking in terms of the need to avoid uncertainty about the future. Full bureaucracies are most likely to be found in Latin, Mediterranean and Islamic countries, as well as Japan and some other Asian countries. Richard Mead describes this organisation type as most reflective of the Weberian ideal (Mead, 2005: 182) and is closest to our popular conception of a bureaucracy, with all the accompanying negative connotations that entails. The key features of work which may be relevant to any consideration of information management in these organisation types were identified in Chapter 2, and are as follows:
The third bureaucratic model is one that is mostly likely to be found in China, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, West Africa – all places that have a high ranking in terms of power distance, coupled with a low need to avoid uncertainty about the future. This organisation type is characterised by having a strong leader, whose authority is associated with them as an individual, which is not necessarily the same as authority associated with a rank or position. Richard Mead suggests that promotion will be more likely for in-group or family members, and difficult if not impossible for outsiders. Mead provides an insider’s view of the impact of these cultural traditions, quoting an Indian manager:
Lack of knowledge of one’s role and that of others one comes into contact with is one of the foremost causes of employee and organizational ineffectiveness … Relationships often fail due to misunderstandings and lack of role clarity, as can be seen in the example of the old employee trying to play the role of adviser to a new employee who misinterprets this as being ‘bossed’ by one who has no business to do so! (Mead, 2005: 183)
The implications of this for any knowledge transfer projects are immense. The other key features of work which may be relevant to any consideration of information management in these organisation types were identified in Chapter 2, and are as follows:
The final organisation type is most likely to be found in the German-speaking countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where national culture is characterised by a low ranking on the power distance dimension, coupled with a high need to avoid uncertainty about the future. In these organisations, greater emphasis is placed on regulating activities rather than negotiating relationships. Richard Mead singles out a societal feature to differentiate the impact of this organisational type: the ease with which German trade unions, management and government appear to cooperate in order to, for instance, implement new technologies (Mead, 2005: 183).
The characteristics relating to the workflow bureaucracy identified in Chapter 2 are as follows:
In this scenario the situation is one where there is a need for a library service in order to provide specialist information to support the work undertaken by professional staff within the organisation. The organisation itself could be either in the private sector (for example, a law firm or pharmaceutical company) or public (a government-funded research institute, for instance).
Referring back to our information culture assessment framework described in Chapter 6, the key factor to be addressed is respect for information as knowledge. In other words, the extent to which there is within the organisation recognition and awareness of the need to manage certain information for the purpose of increasing knowledge and awareness.
The other factors that are likely to be highly influential in this particular scenario are considerations relating to occupational culture. Which professions are represented within the organisation, who would be the primary users of the library service are key questions to be answered.
In the marketplace bureaucracy or village market organisational type, in order to establish a library service a good first step would be to spend time consulting with the specialists who will be the main users. The aim of the consultation would be to find out how their information needs are currently met, and what strategies they perceive as being of assistance. Ascertain how people currently work, and then use this as a basis to design the library service. Beware of developing a proposal that could be perceived by the target group as being detrimental to their needs. For instance, in this organisation type characterised by a flat and possibly ambiguous structure, the acquisition of information resources may be ad hoc and purchases made on an individual basis. So if staff are used to regarding their information resources as individually owned, any proposal for centralisation and rationalisation may be regarded as a barrier to efficient and effective working.
It will be essential to demonstrate cost-effectiveness, but the emphasis should be on how to achieve this without disturbing patterns of working that are perceived by users as being optimum. Support from users will be essential for the successful implementation of a library service, so a good strategy will be to collect and/or develop narratives of specific instances where fast access to accurate information has made a difference to a situation which is germane to the work of the organisation.
In this organisational type it will be necessary to find a champion to fight for and represent this initiative. Try to identify someone who is genuinely enthusiastic and realises the value of library service. This is likely to be someone who is part of the target user group, but care should be taken to make sure they represent all the occupational cultures involved, and not just their own ‘tribe’. Consideration should be given to establishing a management committee, in order to involve representation from each specialist user community. It will also be important to undertake regular service evaluation, and to provide responsive feedback to users.
In this organisation type, the approach to establishing a special library service would be very different to its polar opposite organisation described above. Instead of focusing on the users and mobilising their support, primary attention should be targeted at managing upwards. In other words, convincing the next layer above in the organisational hierarchy of the importance and need for a library service, and providing support to enable that supervisory layer to convince their managers, and so on. Attempting to garner support without proceeding systematically upwards through a chain of command is not likely to be successful.
Services should still of course be designed and developed to suit user needs. However, when identifying which users to target for interview, the most senior individuals should be approached. These will be the people with the most influence within the organisation, so it will be critical to enlist their support.
All library policies and procedures should be clearly and systematically documented, and authorised by senior management. It will be particularly important to demonstrate clear pathways for decision making, for instance the purchase of resources. The mission of the library should emphasise its value in supporting the work of specialists. A particularly challenging feature, which may appear to be at odds with the fundamental role of libraries in facilitating the freedom of information, is consideration of whether information needs to be restricted to particular hierarchical levels rather than be made openly available to all staff within the organisation. If this can be done without compromising the role of the library then it should be seriously considered.
In this model, approval and authorisation must be gained from the strong leader who will be found in this organisation type. If the library is to provide services to all departments in the organisation it will probably be essential to ensure that structurally the library reports directly to the leader. If this is not the case, then there is a serious risk that the library would be seen as aligned to one particular area and so not relevant to others.
Once again, consideration should be given to whether or not information should be restricted according to hierarchical levels, rather than being made freely available across the organisation. In this setting, it could be the case that restrictions are implemented based on physical access to the library space, in other words, only designated employees would be permitted to enter the library.
The key characteristic of belief in generalists and common sense rather than specialists and expertise does not imply that organisations of this type would have a particularly receptive environment for library services. Although this is also true of the marketplace bureaucracy, in that setting an appropriate strategy to offset this was to enlist the support of those users. The personnel bureaucracy model does not present similar opportunities. There is no way around the need for buy in and support by the organisation’s leader. If that is not forthcoming then the initiative will simply not succeed. So, analysis of the leader’s information needs, and identification of concerns relating to unauthorised access to information must be very carefully carried out. Then attempts must be made to develop and tailor services for that individual, and hopefully by actual demonstration of benefits support will be forthcoming.
In this organisation type, negotiation and involvement of all target user groups in the design and delivery of library services will be essential. In contrast to the personnel bureaucracy, specialists and expertise are likely to be highly regarded in these organisations, which would certainly seem to be a positive and receptive environment for the development of a library service.
As in the case of the full bureaucracy, clearly documented policies and procedures will be essential, together with authorisation of senior management. Technological solutions are likely to be favoured. As information technology architecture is likely to be holistically designed rather than characterised by ad hoc growth, a good approach would be to investigate how to leverage the use of existing systems to deploy library services.
In this scenario the assumption is that the organisation has an established, traditional library service but that a need has been perceived to develop a digital library. As a further twist we will assume that the person who has recognised the need is not at the top of the library’s management hierarchy; in other words, someone who cannot rely on any innate power or authority to influence the decision makers. The key challenge here is to present a case for change from an established service delivery model to one utilising new and emerging technologies.
As in the preceding scenario, a key consideration will be the extent to which the organisation respects information as knowledge, or the level of awareness of the need to manage information for the purpose of increasing knowledge and awareness. Unlike the previous scenario, though, this is demonstrated to a certain extent because there is already a library service in existence. This digital library scenario has been selected because it will highlight issues relating to less senior information management professionals and to the implementation of emerging technologies.
In this organisation type, convincing professional library colleagues of the need for a digital library will be as essential as gaining user input into the development of a business case. The first step, therefore, will be to identify who the stakeholders are, and what roles have to be considered. Representatives from all levels of the organisation should be involved in consultation; this must not be restricted simply to upper levels of management.
It will be necessary to cultivate a champion for this project who will be able to influence decision making at key resource allocation meetings. However, it will not necessarily be a disadvantage for the initiative to originate from a lower level in the organisation’s management structure, provided widespread support can be demonstrated.
Any written documentation required must include a standalone executive summary which encapsulates all the key points, including recommendations and funding implications. Although supporting details will undoubtedly be required and expected, there is no guarantee that the decision makers will read the detail, so a comprehensive, easily digestible précis is essential. Similarly, any presentations should be jargon free; decision makers are unlikely to be convinced or impressed by the use of technical language.
One feature to be wary of in this environment is the juxtaposition of ‘a scepticism towards technological solutions’, and ‘innovations welcomed but not necessarily taken seriously’. This implies that there may be apparent interest in a new initiative such as developing a digital library, but that this may only be at a very superficial level because of novelty value rather than any intrinsic recognition of appropriateness. So whereas it may be relatively easy to capture initial interest in the project, capitalising on that is likely to be more difficult and will require sustained effort.
At the opposite extreme in terms of organisation types, in this environment a business case could only be developed if it had the full support of the initiator’s manager. An initiative such as this which challenges the existing order of things would not be welcomed, and the innovator would be at quite a disadvantage without the power and prestige that a senior role brings. Whether or not colleagues, particularly subordinates, supported the idea would have little impact on its progress. Authorisation would have to be obtained systematically through each level upwards in the chain of command. The main stumbling block is likely to be right at the start, that is, getting people to accept that the idea has merit and give permission to proceed to gather data to support a case.
Likely cultural preferences could be taken into account in the digital library functionality outlined in the business case. This organisation type is likely to have a bias towards technological solutions, so much should be made of efficiency gains to be realised from developing a digital library in contrast to existing physical systems. A preference for information to be constrained by hierarchy suggests that social networking features would not be highly regarded enhancements. Platforms to share information and engage in discussion may not be seen as appropriate or desirable in this organisational context.
Full documentation would have to be prepared to justify the business case, with benefits and costs itemised. The approval process is likely to be lengthy, but at least the appropriate pathway for authorisation would be clear and unambiguous.
As with the traditional library service scenario, the essential step would be to gain approval to proceed from the organisation’s leader. Convincing this person of the value and benefits to be gained from a digital library is critical to success – without this person’s support the initiative will fail. If the project proceeds beyond the business case stage it will be essential, if it is to be implemented organisation wide, that it is not aligned with any particular department.
As with the previous organisation type, it will be necessary for the initiator of the idea to proceed upwards through their management hierarchy, rather than approaching the leader directly. It will not be necessary to enlist support from subordinates.
In this environment, innovations may have novelty value, which will be of key assistance in getting that initial hearing. The challenge, of course, will be to capitalise on that initial interest and demonstrate the likely benefits to the organisation of implementing a digital library.
Thorough documentation will be required, but it is likely to be important for this to be presented in non-technical language. Professional jargon will not be appreciated. It is also likely that good use of visual imagery will be required. Organisations of this type are situated in regions which have a high ranking in terms of collectivism, which has been associated with preferences for high context communication (see Chapter 2). So using graphs to illustrate efficiencies and benefits will be very appropriate.
As with the full bureaucracy, a characteristic of the personnel bureaucracy is a view of restricting information according to hierarchy as necessary. The functionality presented in the business case should therefore reflect this view and emphasise abilities to collaborate within workgroups or teams rather than organisation wide.
Involvement of all stakeholders in the development of the business case in this organisation type will be essential. Colleagues, subordinates, managers and users should all be consulted and their opinions incorporated into the justification. The documentation itself should reflect and detail the consultative process.
The business case should also overtly draw on external resources, for example using and citing similar initiatives to support the arguments made. It will really strengthen the business case if a solid, evidence base can be demonstrated and show that the idea is founded on other successful endeavours in a similar organisational setting. National and international standards should be referred to where possible, as these are likely to be trusted by management.
The favourable components in this environment are that there is likely to be a bias towards technological solutions, and furthermore that openness with information is encouraged. Incorporating a digital library into existing information technology infrastructure is likely to be achievable, and so this should be capitalised on. Elucidating how digital library usage can enhance existing workflows and including this detail in a business case is likely to be a winning strategy. Using specialist, technical language in a business case is likely to garner respect from decision makers rather than the reverse.
This scenario is one which has caused many problems in both private and public sector organisations in western developed economies. The aim of EDRMS systems is to manage digital records; in other words to provide the functionality of physical filing systems for paper records in technological form. Unfortunately, however, that involves quite substantial change to the way that people work, as implicit in the implementation of these systems is the expectation that everyone will carry out records management tasks. These may well be minimal, such as filing documents in the records system by dragging and dropping, but even such small tasks require buy-in and cooperation from users.
Consequently this is a setting which really highlights differences in terms of the value that is accorded to information as evidence, that is the recognition and awareness of the need to manage certain information for the purposes of accountability. Also playing a key role in this scenario is the regulatory environment; that is, what legislative requirements there are for the management of records, and the attitudes of staff towards compliance. In the paper environment, responsibility for keeping records was likely to have been firmly delegated to administrative support staff, but that situation no longer prevails.
This organisation type appears to be particularly unsuited for the implementation of an EDRMS, which is unfortunate to say the least given that the EDRMS is currently the predominant solution for the management of digital records. Key problematic characteristics include managers relying on personal experience, as this implies that recordkeeping will not be viewed as essential. The tolerance for ambiguity in structures and procedures suggests that the formality associated with recordkeeping may be regarded as excessive and unnecessary. The characteristic of employees needing to learn and manage precision and punctuality again conveys the ambiguity and lack of clarity associated with this organisational type.
Gaining the co-operation and support of users will be essential for successful implementation. The additional work practices (however minor) associated with EDRMS implementation are likely to be regarded as impositions so it is essential that this aspect is explicitly addressed rather than ignored. To do this successfully, appropriate training programmes must be implemented. ‘Appropriate’ means designing according to user needs and preferences. So training is likely to consist of a number of components including small group sessions and online tutorials for solo study, as well as being supplemented by help desk and/or floor-walking backup. Neglecting users, or attempting to economise on efforts in this regard will inevitably lead to the aims of the system being undermined. For an EDRMS to be successful, usage has to be consistent and routine otherwise the records that are being managed will not reflect the entirety of the organisation’s memory.
Use of the EDRMS may appear to impose a formality of working which can seem at odds with the characteristic informal, relationship-based working environment. So it is essential that the records management team should recognise this, and search for ways to compensate for it. One broad strategy should be to position themselves as an integral part of the organisation, to work on relationship building rather than take literally the back room designation so often applied. A champion will definitely be required, someone at a senior level who can be relied on to show good practice. In this scenario representation by senior management is extremely important, as filing can still be regarded as the province of the lowly paid and most junior employees.
A final useful strategy should be the proactive documentation of instances where disasters have occurred as a result of poor recordkeeping. Associating records management with risk management can be an important way of emphasising the importance of utilising EDRMS for senior management.
In this environment, which is characterised by the formality of processes, the implementation of an EDRMS presents a quite different set of issues and challenges. Unlike the market bureaucracy, if appropriate authorisation from management is forthcoming, imposing additional tasks on users should not present too many problems. Where problems do arise, however, is when there are concerns about widespread dissemination of information or unauthorised access to information both internally and externally.
Consequently perhaps the most important feature to be addressed will relate to security. Mapping functions and responsibilities within the organisation to information needs must be prioritised and, most importantly, decisions made should be authorised by appropriate levels within the chain of command. This feature should be highlighted when presenting any training seminars or workshops. In addition, ensuring that records are protected from unauthorised access from outside the organisation will assist in promoting confidence in the system.
Formalised management, bias towards hierarchical control role and preferences for technological solutions are all factors which should help provide a positive and receptive environment for EDRMS implementation. Add to that employees for whom precision and punctuality come naturally and a task orientation, then it is only fears relating to freedom of access that will need to be overcome.
Similar concerns are likely to be present in the personnel bureaucracy organisation type. Support from the strong leader will be essential, and the ideal would be to align the system and those responsible for its administration with this leadership role. If the EDRMS was managed by a section that was part of a particular functional area (for instance, student administration within a university) then there is a strong likelihood that it would be perceived as only serving that functional unit and not others.
The view of information as something which should be restricted rather than shared widely must be at the forefront when designing the configuration and implementation of the system. Personnel bureaucracy organisation types are typical of countries which rank highly on the collectivism dimension. So incorporating features which allow information sharing in workgroups while restricting access to ‘outsiders’ in other departments is likely to be a successful strategy. This feature can also be promoted in a slightly different way, that is to show that secretarial and administrative support staff will more easily be able to manage their superior’s information.
Similarly, highlighting features that enable collaborative working within teams or workgroups is likely to assist with uptake. Training programmes are most likely to be successful if they are run on that workgroup basis. However, care should be taken not to include representatives from too diverse levels of the organisational hierarchy. Status is taken very seriously, and this could lead in subordinates not participating and senior personnel losing face. Given the likely preference for high context information, pictures and images rather than extensive text should be preferred for training materials.
This organisation type appears to be the one most suited to EDRMS implementation. There is likely to be a bias towards technological solutions, coupled with a task orientation. Furthermore, the characteristic of openness with information suggest that concerns about unauthorised access within the organisation are not likely to present difficulties. Also, if there is recognition of the need for later, societal access to records then there is likely to be a pre-disposition to ensuring that records are created and managed appropriately as part of routine working requirements.
Problems associated with the other organisation types and the need to justify records management, and to restrict access to information, are not characteristic of the workflow bureaucracy. Although the EDRMS may necessitate different ways of working, the fundamental task of recordkeeping is more likely to be familiar and accepted in this environment. All legislative and standards-related requirements to recordkeeping should be made explicit, as these are likely to be respected and followed. Access restrictions will of course be necessary still, but these will reflect regulatory requirements such as privacy concerns. Once again, the motivation for restrictions must be made clear.
This scenario is quite possibly the most challenging one. Archives are poorly understood by the general public – unlike libraries, usage of archives is not something that can be relied on to have taken place in the course of education. Consequently the case to establish an in-house repository will have to be very carefully formulated in order to counteract likely pre-existing biases.
Records that are worth preserving for posterity are records that have been deemed to have archival value. As a rule of thumb, less than 10% of an organisation’s records will fall into this category. In order to keep this scenario as simple as possible, it is assumed that the repository will be required for hard copy (mostly paper) records only. The ongoing preservation of digital records is complex, and omitted from consideration here because of the complications of the requirements for specialist expertise that would be introduced.
The permanent retention of analogue records is costly. A secure environment will be required, and control of temperature, humidity and light are essential as each of these factors can cause irreparable damage to materials. Archives cannot be stored in any old boxes or filing equipment that happens to be at hand, as these items are not likely to afford sufficient protection and may in themselves cause further damage. Consequently, containers such as acid-free boxes have to be purchased. Also, specialist expertise will be needed for the intellectual work associated with the management of archives such as arrangement and description. This cursory outline of basic requirements for a repository should indicate the not-trivial nature of this endeavour. Taking into consideration that these records are unlikely to have current operational value, it can be seen that establishing an in-house archival repository may not be a priority for organisations.
As with the EDRMS scenario, a key consideration will be the extent to which there is respect for information as evidence within the organisation. If this is absent or lacking, a much more difficult task is presented.
In the EDRMS scenario for this organisation type I argued that the need to create and maintain records is not likely to be regarded as being of an essential nature. Consequently it cannot be assumed that the regard for the value and importance of records will exist, let alone awareness of the need for permanent retention of some records with all the costs involved. Furthermore, this organisation type is characterised by periods of employment likely to be short. The implication of ongoing staff turnover is that there is unlikely to be regard for the need to maintain a history of the organisation.
If, however, an archives repository could be presented as enhancing the profile of the organisation then a positive case could be formulated. This is where careful analysis of the organisation’s corporate culture, particularly its external image, will be useful. For instance, if traditional values or the long-standing expertise of craftsmen are invoked in advertising products, then the management of the organisation should be receptive to the idea of preserving its past. In this instance, using archival material in exhibitions will help demonstrate their value.
A less cynical view might be of an organisation that has a strong association with social justice such as welfare or political activism. Pride in the achievements of the organisation should be a strong motivator to tap into to gain support for the establishment of an archives.
The highly formalised management and long average duration of employment in this organisational model may provide a positive setting for the establishment of an archival repository. The problem once again, though, is that there is likely to be an unwillingness to allow access to archived documents. Policies and procedures associated with the management of the archives would have to be prepared, and authorised by senior management. These policies should take into account concerns about access, and will have to demonstrate that appropriate measures will be taken to protect the archives from both environmental and human risks.
A key feature of this model is the existence of a strong leader, whose authority is associated with them as an individual, rather than with the rank and position. This provides a unique opportunity which can be capitalised upon. A focus of the archives could be on records and memorabilia associated with the individuals who have held that leadership role. Emphasising the commemorative possibilities associated with archives could very well be beneficial; organising displays of appropriate records will help make this point.
The notion of establishing an organisational genealogy may well fit with cultural preferences for vertical integration (see Chapter 2).
The likelihood of good recordkeeping practices applied to the management of current information suggests that this organisational type will be pre-disposed to the concept of archival records and the need to manage these appropriately. A high regard for the need for evidential records to demonstrate accountability for future generations provides the right philosophical underpinning for the establishment of an archives. In addition, recent history of state abuses of power in countries where this organisation type is likely to predominate emphasises the need for archival records to provide justice and enlightenment.
A high regard for openness with information suggests that this feature should be emphasised. In addition, any legal or regulatory requirements for archival records should be identified and emphasised as compliance is likely to be regarded as essential.
This chapter has attempted to demonstrate the sort of differences in approach which will be necessary in order to progress key information management initiatives in different organisational settings. Using the bureaucracy typology has enabled the application of the same set of variables to each initiative. In the real world, however, this would not provide the detailed cultural understanding that is fundamental for successful information management. The methodology outlined in the previous chapter provides the framework to proceed beyond stereotypical, broad-brush categorisations.