Another Secret to Filing

Originally published in Mt Diablo Chapter Newsletter
By Andrea P Wood, CRM

Pdrsn sighed a heavy sigh.  After his “Miracle of the PD Files” (The Secret to Filing), he had developed something of a reputation in records management.  Most recently, he had been asked by a former colleague to come and help with the filing situation at a mining colony on a gas planet in the Arguello system.

Not surprisingly, the records were in a mess.  The colonists had relied on a series of migrant workers (sometimes called “contracts”) to do their filing for them and each one seemed to have taken a different approach.  It even appeared that at one point whoever was doing the filing created a new folder for every new record that came in.  Pdrsn’s colleague had finally gotten his management to agree to expend the credits for a full-time employee who’s time, at least in part, would be “dedicated” to keeping the filing in order.  Once Pdrsn figured out what that order would be.

Having taken a self-conducted tour of the files, Pdrsn was now reporting his findings at a regular weekly Staff Meeting.

“It’s very curious,” he stated.  “The file clerk has records and no idea where they should be filed.  She’s actually hunting for folders in which to place records, hoping for the best fit.  On the other hand, I found many folders with absolutely no records in them at all.  And in some cases, I found two folders, side by side, both on virtually the same subject; and each containing only one record.”

“Well,” explained the manager.  “It was the planetary engineers who set up the filing system, even before they began building the plant.”

Pdrsn blinked.  All sixteen eyes together.  He felt an almost overwhelming need to chew on his nails.

“The engineers set up the filing system?”

“That’s right.”

“Well,” Pdrsn didn’t say out loud.  “There’s your problem right there.”

But before he could start to explain what would need to be done the rectify the situation, the manager waved a number of tentacles in the air and said, “Just do whatever you have to do to get it done.  We’ll rely on your good judgment.”

And that was that.

Back among the files, Pdrsn faced the new filing clerk and a “contract” who had been hired temporarily to help get the new filing system started.  Pdrsn wasn’t too surprised to find that the new clerk was a member of his own species.  Having eight pairs of hands and eyes did make for quick filing, once you knew what you were doing.  And Pdrsn was determined to get this one off to a good start.

“One of the secrets to filing,” he told them, “is retrieval.  Instead of asking yourself where to file something, ask yourself where you, or someone else, would be likely to look for it.

“Another secret to filing is simplicity.  This system was set up by some engineers.  Now, engineers are very fine people; but they tend to be very literal-minded.  They want to put round pegs in round holes; square pegs in square holes; triangular pegs in triangular holes; etc.

“All you really need here is to set up a file marked ‘Pegs’ and throw all the pegs into it together.”

With that, he began setting up new, completely empty files.

“Let’s start with the basics.  Chances are, you’re going to be filing things having to do with credits.  So you’ll need an Accounting file.  And there’s almost always things regarding the running of the office and the plant, so we’ll make up a file for Administration.  And so on…”

Soon they had a list of empty files:

Audit and Compliance
CR Benefits
CR Employees
Engineering and Maintenance (E&M)
Environment, Safety, and Health
Exploration and Exploitation (E&E)
Information Systems (IS)
Intellectual Property (IP)
Marketing and Sales
Media and Government Relations
Planetary and Real Estate
Research and Development (R&D)

“I’ll bet you a basketful of Ho-Ho’s that everything we find in these records will fit into one of these basic categories,” Pdrsn told them.

“What’s a Ho-Ho?” asked the contract.

Pdrsn cracked open the first file.  It contained a single record concerning cost evaluations.

“Accounting,” he declared and transferred the record into the new Accounting file, deleting the now empty folder.  Going to the next folder, he transferred the contents into additional new folders.

“Start with the basics,” Pdrsn said.  “If a folder gets too full, we can always break it down into sub-files.”

The new clerk and the contract quickly caught on and each went to a terminal and began transferring records and deleting old folders.  It almost seemed like a game to them as they competed to transfer the most records as quickly as possible.

Leaving them to it, Pdrsn went in search of a replicator.  He was disappointed to learn that this replicator was not programmed to produce the ancient Earth delicacy that he had referred to earlier.  However, when he asked for a display of food items under the general category of “chocolate”, he soon discovered a selection that, although configured into a different shape, contained most of the elements of his beloved Ho-Ho’s.  It was called, the cosmos alone knew why, “Ding-Dongs”.

Back in the filing area, he found the clerk and contract debating whether a record concerning workers’ pay belonged in Accounting or CR Benefits.

“CR,” Pdrsn declared, calling upon decades of experience.  “If it has anything to do with workers, it’s Cognitive Resources.”

“Why ‘Cognitive Resources’?” wondered the clerk.

“Goes back hundreds of years,” Pdrsn explained.  “Originally, they used ‘HR’ for ‘Humanoid Resources’.  But then the arachnids and the crustaceans began to complain.  And, when they found out about the Sentient Moss on Kelvan Seven, that pretty much knocked ‘HR’ out of the ring.  So, they started using ‘Biological Resources’ to mean any living workers.  But then Exploration discovered the ‘Thinking Crystals’ on Fuerte Nine and that’s when the Powers That Be decided that we’re all Cognitive Resources.  Until they change it again.”

Pdrsn was pleased to see that the two ‘Cognitive Resources’ had transferred nearly half of the existing records into the new folders.  Next, he showed them how to break large categories down into smaller sub-categories.  Finding a number of records relating to the same topic, he tagged and moved them into a new sub-folder.

“How to you know when to create a sub-category?” the new clerk wanted to know.

“My general rule of thumb,” Pdrsn held up five thumbs to illustrate his point, “is five.  But nothing’s frozen in carbonite.  You’ll soon get the feel of it.  The most important thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a right or wrong filing system.  You just need to find what fits your particular needs the best.”

By the end of the second day, they had replaced thousands of files with a few hundred.  Confident that the new clerk would “keep up the good work”, Pdrsn took the next transport back to his home world, with a nice feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, and a large basket full of Ding-Dongs to boot.

(The case study you have just read is absolutely true.  Certain names and places were changed to protect the innocent.  And the guilty.  apw)