[The Paperless Chronicles Part II]
Since the beginning of man’s earliest attempts at communication, there have been MISSED-communications. Throughout the ages we have become excellent at making up excuses for our missed and mis-communications. Some have become so common, they have actually become clichés - such as “the check is in the mail.”
Here is a quick review of excuses over the ages :
1441 A.D., Peru Twunta apologizes for missing the meeting of hunters. His excuse was that the day the drummers sent out the invitation he was in a deep valley overgrown with vegetation and he did not hear the drumming.
1567 A.D. Shiprock, New Mexico Swift Eagle apologized to the elders for missing the Tribal Council meeting. “The mesa top where I hunted was fogged in and I could not read the smoke signals.”
1864 Georgia Sherman’s march on Atlanta was delayed when telegraph lines were repeatedly cut. Repair men became infamous for saying they’d show up between noon and sunset, requiring troops waste hours waiting for the cable guy to show up.
“Waiting on the Cable Guy”
1881 Tombstone, Arizona Marshall Dillon and Chester tried to convince the rest of the Earp’s that they’d missed the 12 noon shoot-out because the Pony Express message was delayed getting to them. The horse broke its leg somewhere outside of Tucson. This became, according to Louis L’Amour, “The ‘lame excuse’ excuse”.
1973 Washington DC The President proclaimed ignorance regarding an 18 minute gap in the electronic recordings subpoenaed from his Oval Office. While some reports have the quote as “I am not a crook”, digital tapes have revealed he actually said “I am not a geek, the tape recorder broke or something.”
2003 New York City John Doe tried desperately to explain why he stood his girlfriend up for dinner, leaving her sitting alone in a restaurant for over an hour. “There was no cell service. I only had one bar. Honest, I tried calling.” (The infamous “Dropped Service” excuse.)
2007 AnyCity, USA The principal tried to explain to the Assistant Superintendent that he missed an important deadline because his Adobe Reader went down and he couldn’t get the PDF memo open.
I have been operating in my new “paperless environment” for over a week now.As I begin to chronicle my “adventures” in establishing a paperless office environment, it has already become clear that certain issues will need to be dealt with quickly. When information doesn’t really exist anywhere except in a digital format, its nebulous and ethereal nature makes for easy excuse-making. (Too-easy, methinks.)
Already I have learned four things…
#1 Don’t Assume That Just Because You Sent It, It Was Read:
First, I sent an important project to someone. If the project had been in the traditional paper format, it would have taken up several pages, contained color graphics, and been enclosed in a laminated folder. It would have been hard to miss. I have no doubt, if nothing else, the project would have been “in the way” and at least moved around or sent to another office for review. What actually happened is that the email containing the project (which was in a podcast format, btw), sat in the receiver’s Outlook Mailbox. It was not found until someone else asked where my project was. By then, the deadline had passed and my proposal could no longer be considered. Fortunately, the email and attached project was proof I had completed the task, but two days of work were down the drain because the project sat unopened.
#2 Not Everyone WANTS To Go Paperless:
Second, we received a two-page paper survey asking us for input about one of the district programs. Knowing the person who had sent out the survey and wanting to be both helpful as well as take advantage of a “teachable moment”, I converted the survey with Survey Monkey into an on-line format. I sent the address to the original source and explained that if she would simply email the address to everyone, the survey could be conducted on-line and - most helpfully - the results could be tabulated in a number of ways by the software, thus saving her department hours of hand-tabulating a paper survey. She responded with a polite “thanks-but-no-thanks-they-preferred-to-use-paper.” I couldn’t help but notice that weeks after the survey deadline, her department was still emailing district personnel to complete the survey and return it to her office. I truly believe she would have had the results sooner - and already tabulated - if she had used Survey Monkey. (Can anyone offer an explanation as to why someone would actually prefer the hassle of creating, printing, collating, mailing, receiving, and tabulating an extensive district-wide survey with paper instead using Survey Monkey?)
#3 Do Not Assume Everyone Is Techno-Literate:
Third, I had many people in the district ask to see my pictures from my summer trip. I posted them with comments on Flickr. I received a response from a colleague that he could view the pictures but couldn’t open any of the links. (This puzzles me since there are no links to open.)
#4 There Are Some Who Never Will Get It:
All of this simply illustrates that going paperless is going to involve some even-more-basic training of staff than I had originally thought.
Even as you read this, I am working on an inservice training plan for my staff. I’ll post it soon.
 Farr’s Fractured Fictional Fables, 2007, Blog O’Bull Publications