“Lean in, back off, but don’t do nothing.”
I just finished reading Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, and, of all the thought provoking statements he makes, that phrase is the one sticking with me. I like to think of it as the equivalent of a car’s accelerator pedal. You can push down and go faster, or let up and coast, but under no circumstance should you touch the brake.
So why does this phrase stick with me? Because I think Information Management (IM) programs are at particular risk of doing nothing, falling into stasis rather than capitalizing on the opportunity to lead and influence.
What causes this risk?
The organizational scope and positioning of IM programs impacts their ability to optimize their impact across the business. In a survey Access Sciences conducted in 2008, only 50% of respondents indicated that supporting a Sales function was within their scope, while 80% declared they reported into either IT or Legal. This bias towards the administrative places Information Management programs within a context where it is difficult to “lean in” and provide leadership.
Another potential cause is the Information Management Lifecycle scope the program manages. If a program’s charter is squarely in the Declare, Preserve, and Dispose stages, for example, their influence can be limited to their ability to manage records. By not having a seat at the table regarding Creation and Collaboration, IM programs become a passive recipient of information assets.
Organizational positioning and program scope may be facts, but they do not need to limit an IM program’s reach. It still is possible to act as the accelerator pedal for how the business manages information, pushing and coasting as appropriate. It does mean, however, that energy must be applied to discover opportunities to network, extend reach, and build advocates for the program across your business.
Godin describes how “there is a tribe of fellow employees or customers or investors or believers or hobbyists or readers just waiting for you to connect them to one another and lead them where they want to go.” What would happen if you grabbed the accelerator and provided this leadership?