AIIM19 session preview - Writing Effective IIM & IT Policies with Lewis Eisen
AIIM19 is just around the corner, March 26-28 in San Diego, and a number of interesting sessions and panel discussions are planned. To give you a sneak-peek, I spoke with one of the presenters this year, Lewis Eisen from Perfect Policies about his session titled “Writing Effective IMM and IT Policies.”
What will you be speaking about during your session?
An organization’s IIM and IT policies communicate both intended messages and unintended messages. Policy writers typically pay attention only to the intended messages. My session is about the unintended ones: the overtones and undertones, hidden between the lines.
Can you describe what you mean by intended and unintended messages?
Compare the tone of voice of these two policy statements: A) ALL employees MUST always obtain approval from IT Services BEFORE using any thumb drive in the office; and B) A thumb drive may be used in the office once it has been approved by IT Services. The intended message is the same in both cases: IT Services needs to approve the thumb drive. We get it. Fair enough.
But what about the hidden messages?
Statement B sounds respectful. It describes the way things should be as a matter of course. Its tone assumes that employees want to cooperate. On its face it does not sound oppressive or confrontational. In contrast, Statement A sounds like the writer is shouting. The statement assumes that employees do not want to cooperate. When you listen carefully, you can hear a subtle—but clearly perceptible—tone of frustration. The hidden message is very clear: We [in IT Services] are tired of people not listening to us. You people have to obey our rules.
What brings about this situation and how can we avoid it?
It could be that the organization is experiencing a compliance problem. Or maybe the writer is tired of people constantly asking for exemptions. Or maybe the policy maker feels the need to make dictatorial pronouncements to reinforce the pecking order in the office. Whatever the cause, it doesn’t justify the tone of voice. Well written policies do not sound like angry parents scolding naughty children.
What is your advice for policy writers as they move forward in their efforts?
As the policy writer, it may be difficult for you to hear the unintended messages unless you stop to listen. But you can be sure that your employees hear them. Loud and clear. If the purpose of policy statements is to obtain compliance, we need to pay attention to how they are heard by employees. My session will look at how to identify negative language in our policies, and how to change it to support a respectful and inclusive workplace.
About Kevin Craine
Kevin Craine is a professional writer, an internationally respected technology analyst, and an award-winning podcast producer. He was named the #1 Enterprise Content Management Influencer to follow on Twitter and has listeners and readers worldwide. Kevin creates strategic content for the web, marketing, social media, and more. He is the written voice for some of North America's leading brands and his interviews feature today's best thought leaders. His client list includes many well-known global leaders like IBM, Microsoft and Intel, along with a long list of individuals and start-ups from a wide variety of industries. Kevin's podcasts have been heard around the world, including the award-winning weekly business show "Everyday MBA". He is also the host and producer of "Bizcast" on C-Suite Radio and the producer behind podcasts for Epson, Canon, IBM and AIIM International, among others. Prior to starting Craine Communications Group, Kevin was Director of Document Services for Regence BlueCross BlueShield where he managed high volume document processing operations in Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City. He also spent time at IKON as an Enterprise Content Management consultant working with national and major accounts. He was the founding editor of Document Strategy magazine. Kevin has also been, at one point or another, an adjunct university professor, a black belt martial artist, and a professional guitarist. Kevin holds an MBA in the Management of Science and Technology as well as a BA in Communications and Marketing.