Forgive the David Bowie riff.
By now, many of you have seen the official announcement – HERE – of my transition to a different set of responsibilities – and opportunities – here at AIIM.
Given that my posts on this blog have often been a combination of information management observations and embarrassing mentions of my kids, with a bit of bizarre humor thrown in – and given that many of my posts have taken the form of “8 things you need to know about X” -- I thought I would not break form today.
8 Things I’ve Learned Working at AIIM
1 – Stability – for people and for organizations -- is only good in moderation. It will come as no surprise to those that know me that I am not exactly a job hopper. I have worked at three organizations in 35+ years. There is a level of comfort and predictability associated with this, both personally and for the organizations for which I’ve worked. Most problems I’ve seen with people and their organizations usually are the result of people staying too long rather than not long enough. And I’ve seen hugely successful organizations collapse by staying the course in the midst of accelerating change. There are times to stir the pot and times to leave it at rest – both for individuals and for organizations. The trick is knowing which is which.
2 – Association boards are pretty tricky beasts. I was thinking the other day that as a senior executive at two major technology organizations, I’ve organized perhaps 100 Board meetings over the past 25 years. Yikes. And to be honest, there have been some ups and downs along the way. I know there are a lot of AIIM "analysts" that love to pore over AIIM tea leaves for hidden messages. But the fact is, I’m grateful to this particular AIIM Board at this particular point in time for being willing to have an honest and flexible conversation about how I might move on to a different role with AIIM, but stay engaged in this crazy organization that I care about. And for allowing me to hand over the operations of AIIM to Peggy Winton, who will do a killer job.
3 – Associations – including AIIM -- are ultimately not about the person who is President. Far too many organizations become captive of the person who is President. There is a delicate balance between too much and too little identification of the paid executive with the organization itself. AIIM has been fortunate to have two very public and identifiable leaders for 30 years. I think Sue and I tried hard to remember that ultimately AIIM is not about us; we have been just stewards for an ongoing trust with which we were [mostly :-)] blessed.
4 – AIIM has been amazingly resilient in the face of overwhelming change – and it isn’t just luck (although that helps). I think a lot about how much AIIM and the industry and people it represents have changed over the years. There is no rational reason why a microfilm association founded in 1943 should still be alive 73 years later. I worked for a technology organization years and years ago that had SO many more cards than AIIM – a $20 million budget and 120+ people. It’s gone now. Gone. AIIM has been blessed with a combination of executive and volunteer leadership that somehow has survived multiple technology eras – from microfilm to micrographics to imaging to document management to enterprise content management -- and now into the craziness of Digital Disruption.
5 – AIIM needs to constantly remind itself of the fundamental reason it is in existence. We haven’t always realized or appreciated it, but at its core, AIIM has a value proposition that allows it survive those who want to pigeonhole it in a particularly technology. AIIM is ultimately not about technologies, but about helping organizations effectively manage the intersection of people, process, and information. Information is now an organization’s most important asset; AIIM provides the skills to help manage it.
6 – I wish I could figure out a way for the members of AIIM to better know how skilled and how hard working the staff is. For better or worse, I suppose one of the legacies I leave as I move out of the operating chair at AIIM is a weirdly unconventional work environment. We have staff in locations around the world. We work more in home offices than in conventional offices. People are largely responsible for themselves and how and when and where they work. Many of my colleagues in the Association community think this is insane. But when I go through the volume of work that comes out of AIIM, and tell them only 24 people do all of this, they are astounded. As they should be.
7 – Focus with a thousand bosses is so much more difficult than people think. The incredible productivity in #6 comes at a cost when combined with lots and lots of volunteer stakeholders, all of whom believe they have a legitimate and unique claim on the Association’s resources. Many of these claims have their roots in an era in which a massive trade show spun off gigantic profit margins to support all sorts of things for free. We need to find better ways of having honest discussions about how to sustain services at a high level for those interested in training and certification and B2B services and events and cutting-edge research and membership and chapters and Fellows and standards before the 24 people in #6 decide enough is enough.
8 – In the end, any Association is just about people. There are so many colleagues and friends whom I have come to treasure as a result of my association with AIIM. As I make this transition, it’s impossible to list everyone without embarrassing all of you, but just know that I know who you are. And thank you. Your confidences and trust and friendship mean more than I can express.
Enough! What will I be doing now, you ask? Well, hopefully a lot more speaking and writing about the challenges of managing information assets in an era of Digital Disruption and about the critical role that information professionals play in making this all happen. I will be working more directly with companies to improve their marketing and communications effectiveness in a series of new services through AIIM – you’ll find background on this initiative HERE. Ping me at johnmancini [at] AIIM.org and let's talk!
And be forewarned. You’ll be hearing from me.
And speaking of which, if you aren't registered, you need to be in New Orleans for AIIM16!