Friday, October 21, 2005
FED Files - Volume XIII
Our agency prides themselves in being a "paperless society". With everything done over email and people's inboxes full of literally thousands of emails that may feel true. The mantra of the organization is: "Move information not property" so people post all their work on folders on the intranet so that if they up and leave, everyone will have access to all their work. Receipts of the property we receive are all done online and for an agency whose sole purpose is to dispose of and/or recycle military excess property, we have very little inventory in our warehouses due to the efficiency of our "paperless society".
The "paperless" concept has been impressed upon me daily since my arrival at the HDI Federal Center. Being something of a visionary myself, I took strongly to this concept and refuse to print anything more than 75 pages, and even then it's a rare occasion that the printer is utilized from my work station.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I was tasked to consolidate the archived files to get boxed up and sent to our "Archived File" warehouse. The warehouse didn't surprise me because we are bound my law to keep our files for a ridiculous amount of time, but going through the files themselves was extremely alarming. I was told to clean out of the files all the paperwork that our Contracting Officers would have, leaving only correspondence between us and our customer then Contracting would consolidate our files with their own and together we should have a complete package. That seems reasonable. And it was until I opened the Alaska folder. The first folder looked pretty normal, but then I noticed there was a second one. The second one too looked pretty normal (just too much), but then there was the third. And in the third file was day after day after day of emails generated by a now-retired member of our office. He carefully stapled all the conversations together, but left a stack about 3 inches high of email traffic. When Diane saw that I was cleaning out the Alaska file, she went back to her desk, pulled out a stack of papers another 13 inches high and dropped it in front of me. "These too," she explained. "This is the rest of the emails about the Alaska contract. They're not really that important you can throw them out if you want." So I did.
With a total of 16 inches of emails it dawned on me: A paperless society is only as good weakest hit-the-"print"-icon-happy employee.