One of the projects that has been assigned to the knowledge management staff at my organization is maintaining a taxonomy of issue areas that we work on so that we are consistent in using the same terms across the various databases and technologies that we have in place. The only problem with this is that there is a distinct lack of understanding among most of the rest of the staff as to what this means, and why it's important that these lists not be changed arbitrarily. Today we discovered, entirely by accident, that one of the items on our subject list has been changed by agreement among some very senior staff and no one bothered to let us know. We ended up looking foolish because the list that we've made available is out of date.
This incident is yet another in my growing collection of evidence that some people have a really difficult time thinking institutionally about what they do. It's absolutely impossible to maintain consistent subject lists across systems when the department responsible for them is left completely out of the loop on these types of things. Many of the senior staff here have been around since the days when there were only 50 employees and everyone could pretty much do their own thing. We have four times that many people now, and the old ways just don't work any longer, but getting everyone to recognize that is an ongoing challenge.