Marie Kondo has taken over Netflix viewing and peoples lives, transforming cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. Marie uses the KonMari™ method, which encourages tidying by category and keeping only those items which speak to the heart — and discarding items which no longer spark joy.
If you can simplify and organise your home with this method, why not at work? We believe the six rules defining the KonMari method can also be applied to improving data and information management practices. While we don’t recommend deleting anything that doesn’t spark joy (goodbye, kitchen roster), we do encourage you to explore the following rules for a clean-up of information and data.
Commit yourself to tidying up.
Improving your data and information management practices will take time and effort. IT needs a clear leader that’s committed to change. We all get busy but if clear leadership isn’t in place, it will be tough to ask employees for buy in and to stick with the program.
Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
It’s tempting to jump right in and start deleting files — it’s also very satisfying. But everyone has a different idea of what a clean data and information environment will look like. For some, it’s everything in its place so that it’s easy for anyone to find. For others, it’s an agile environment where the ‘sources of truth’ are protected. The first job of your leader will be to establish what your organisation’s ideal data and information environment looks like, and to formally agree on it.
Finish discarding first.
This sounds simple but in reality it’s very hard. We all get distracted by the new and shiny technology or process that promises to solve all our problems. By making sure data and information is discarded once you are sure it’s no longer needed (as per rule 6 below), it will be easier to try out new options and approaches. Otherwise, you will find a trail of half-curated, incomplete data, and it will take even longer to understand why it was created and if it’s still needed.
Tidy by category, not by location.
To do this with your information and data, you need to bring together collections from multiple areas of the business. The scope of your approach will depend on who is leading the tidying effort, and their authority to involve different areas of the organisation.
Follow the right order.
The KonMari method follows a strict order for tidying up: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and sentimental items. While businesses are different, here are the categories of data and information we think you should tackle, in the order best suited to your “ideal work-lifestyle”:
Policies and procedures.
Left unchecked, policies and procedures will only multiply over time. Look at company-wide and local policies to ensure they are aligned.
Daily, monthly and weekly. Take stock of all official and unofficial reports generated and distributed, and ask each business area if they are relevant. You might be surprised!
Customer / client data.
Understanding what is collected, and when and how it is stored and shared is the key to developing a single client view.
We’re all guilty of saving a copy of something locally when it can be accessed centrally or via the internet. This is also a good time to revisit internal libraries and request staff clean out their bottom drawers and lockers.
Got a social intranet page? Do you really need the photos from Christmas parties five years ago? What about the out of date marketing brochures that have since been superseded? Think critically about what you really need to keep.
Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
For each of the categories above, ask if the data and information is useful, necessary or contributing to organisational goals. This is hard, and you will need to challenge your assumptions around why some digital artefacts are required.
The KonMari method suggests to thank items you no longer need. While this is harder when you are dealing with intangible assets like information and data, it’s a great idea to use the decluttering method to acknowledge the past work of teams and individuals.
Thank you for your service
Whether you’re a fan of Marie Kondo and her methodical tidying-up or not, a regular data and information cleanse is recommended to increase its finding, storing and security value within your business. If it brings you some joy during the process, why not embrace it and enjoy the benefits?
Dr Vanessa Douglas-Savage