/writing/ The Block Mover

IN A PREVIOUS life, I was a construction worker. I helped build homes, sort of.

Void of any real construction skills, my duties consisted of moving heavy objects around the job site. Every morning it was the same set of orders – See that unorganized pile of concrete blocks over there? We need them moved and stacked closer to the home site.

It seemed at the time an unimportant and tireless task. But it was crucial to our end goal.

In practical terms, I moved the blocks down a narrow path to where they could quickly be accessed by the construction team. The concrete blocks were dropped near the road by the vehicle transporting the materials. The site of the actual construction was down a hill, inaccessible to the vehicle.

I got to know this path intimately; my efficient navigation of it was my practical contribution to the project.

The real value, however, was that this basic task allowed the foreman and construction workers – the experts – to focus their efforts on what they did best: planning, building, and problem solving. They needed access to the raw materials in the most organized and efficient manner possible. They couldn’t afford to move the blocks themselves, which would divert their expertise away from the real work. (This is an example of segregation of duties.)

So, the final product – a finished house – ultimately benefited from my work, however indirectly. This understanding made the work more bearable.

What’s the connection here to strategic communications?

Information management is a fancy term for organizing your raw content (photos, video, data, etc.), which is to be later be packaged as final communications or media products.

Like a messy and ill-placed pile of concrete blocks, a poorly organized photo, video, or information system is counterproductive and undermines the final product. Inattention to this detail stifles the creative process; it leads to informational mistakes; it undermines your ability to deliver to clients; and it adds time to the production and editing process.

The foreman overseeing our construction project understood this concept well. Take your time and conceptually understand what information is important and how it should be accessed. Begin with that information you need to make that product as dynamic as possible, not from what information is simply available.

Map out your information management requirements on paper, then proceed with setting up your system. Collecting information generally begins in the field, at the point of delivering your services. Begin there. For photography and video work, ensure you have a standard template in which basic information is collected (date, location, individual names, contact information, and a brief explanation of the assistance or why this person is important to your organization).

At the office level, ensure that this information is input into a standardized database that allows your organization to access that information, by anybody at any time. Don’t overlook the importance of setting up an organized folder system in your computers. Develop standard rules for naming your folders and files and map these out in hard copy.

It’s these basic tasks, like moving blocks of concrete around a construction site, that ultimately will help establish a stronger information management system. In turn, your organization’s communications capacity will grow. Start with the basics.

Like many of the ideas we write about here, there’s a lot more to explore. We will continue to do so in future writing.

Thanks for reading.

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