During the course of this file share clean up project, I meet regularly with everyone: my IT partners, the department focal points (i.e. Super Users), as well as the content custodians. My contacts are both locally and globally located. Each task requires a minimum of 125 conversations: introduction of the project, deduplication, new folder structure creation, unique object treatment (delete, move, archive), training sessions on the new folder structure and IG framework, as well as lessons learned.

Definitely the long way around. But my hypothesis is: this path equals a more enduring return on investment.

Speaking in Pictures

In my own small way, I try to relate the importance of each of the above tasks to all 125 peers. And that's why I've turned to analogies. Leveraging analogies is the best way I know to match the skill sets of the person opposite me to the task at hand. A few of the colleagues opposite me offer better analogies than mine — most welcome by the time I get to the 100th conversation!

Examples of analogies I’ve used in this project:

For project introduction: “Our organization has ADHD — we only use about 5 percent of our information created in the past 2 years. Think of the information used in the past 2 years like the hard copy that sits on top of your office desk. This project will clean out the boxes/stacks/folders/whatever underneath your desk.”

For deduplication: “Deduplication is like using a broadsword to perform surgery. Right now, we’re hacking through the objects that are stored throughout our file shares.”

An alternative depuplication analogy: “We’re separating the wheat from the chaff. The chaff is those duplicate objects that belonged to departed employees or current employees that have transitioned to different teams. This information is no longer useful to anyone. We should delete or archive it.”

New folder structure creation: “It’s time to construct a new house for your objects. We’re building your dream house. It’s ok if some of the rooms (i.e. folders) are empty – you don’t need furniture in every room.  You’re only allowed to build the house a few stories deep, though – so choose the purpose of each room in each story wisely.”

Unique objects treatment: “We used a broadsword to deduplicate. Now it’s time to use the rapier. Review your list of unique objects to determine whether we delete, move, or archive them – and, by the way, the last time you touched this information was 2011. It can go.”

Training and IG framework: all the analogies the department focal point and I can think of.

Lessons learned: “We’ve accomplished a lot here. We didn’t need to simply move old stuff over — we held a kind of trash day to help us get ready for the big move. We’ve not only cleaned the old house out, we’ve built a new house, complete with communal space with other teams.”

I’ve been accused in the past of being too subtle and too polite on the job. I use analogies with everyone because I can’t afford to lose time. If I use formal IG and project management jargon, it is most likely that the colleague opposite me simply will not understand the mission of the project and will claim later that I didn’t explain it well. Take my advice: use as many analogies as possible.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  rusteek 

Title image by rusteek