Posted by: Knightbird | March 25, 2013

More of the Tough Beginning at Chugachmiut

When I walked into the copy room at Chugachmiut, there were over 30 boxes of copy paper sitting on the floor. I understood why after I went through the six, 4 drawer legal size filing cabinets in the office I inherited. There were also four or five 8 foot high bookcases full of three ring binders with additional paper filed in them. Some of the files had up to 10 copies of the same document in them. I remember finding additional copies throughout the building. When staff cleaned out the common office used by our grant writers, they removed something like 3 truckloads of paper for recycling. Paper was everywhere, and as is fitting for an organization that has a command and control reporting structure, having a large inventory of copy paper was important. The crazy thing was, we still couldn’t find a document that we needed when we needed it. This one fact alone contributed to incredible waste at Chugachmiut.

After about 4 months of looking at the file cabinets in my new office, and the bookcases that supplemented them, I asked staff to remove the documents and cabinets/bookcases. We resolved to create a central document management system that would reduce the volume of copies made and stored to one of each document important to the management of Chugachmiut. By the end of my tenure as Executive Director, the great work of my staff had a records management system that was the envy of those who knew about us. It took years for the culture change to take effect. Employees who depended on paper copies for their work and for their protection objected to having the paper removed from their control. In the end, the result was that they could have access to that document faster than if they had kept their own copy. Document management staff would deliver the document in 5 minutes or less, and more often than not, it was less. 

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