Open to Change

Since my swearing in as the 10th Archivist of the United States less than a year ago, we’ve taken important steps to become a more open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative agency.

I’m proud of our accomplishments:

We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.

It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones and rethink how we operate as an agency.

A few months ago, I charged a task force to draft a plan for agency transformation. A draft plan was circulated internally for staff input. I’d like to thank the NARA staff who submitted hundreds of thoughtful comments on the proposed plan. Their insight was indispensable in the development of the final report.

Last week their final report, “A Charter for Change,” was issued to staff. The report outlines a new organizational model for the National Archives. These organizational changes are driven by a set of guiding principles. These are the pillars of how we intend to do business in the future. They are:

  • One NARA: work as one NARA and not just as component parts.
  • Out in Front: Embrace the primacy of electronic information in all facets of our work and position NARA to lead accordingly.
  • An Agency of Leaders: Foster a culture of leadership, not just as a position but as the way we all conduct our work.
  • A Great Place to Work: Transform NARA into a great place to work that trusts and empowers all of our people, the agency’s most vital resource.
  • A Customer-Focused Organization: Create structures and processes to allow our staff to more effectively meet the needs of our customers.
  • An Open NARA: Open our organizational boundaries to learn from others.

It’s going to take courage and creativity to “hard-wire” these pillars into our culture and our work. We need to move forward quickly with the proposed changes. It’s crucial that each of us feels a sense of urgency and makes a commitment to these changes. We need to pull together as an agency to be successful.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

We are moving fast. During November and December, the Transformation Launch Team will work with staff to identify the core ideology and values of the agency, identify and implement specific action items, and draft the remaining organization structure of the agency. The transformation will ensure that Open Government at the National Archives not only continues, but flourishes in ways we have not yet imagined.

I am calling on all of you to be champions of change as we move forward. Staff, researchers, and citizen archivists will need to be flexible and forward looking, open to the challenges, and ready to participate.

Are you in?

74 thoughts on “Open to Change

  1. I am definitely excited to be part of these changes underway at NARA!

    In the spirit of OpenGov, I am happy to see “The Charter for Change” and NARA’s plans being shared with the public. Thanks for making it available.

    Jill James
    Social Media Team Manager

  2. Congratulations, and thank you! I am pleased to see the six principles that will underpin the “new day” at NARA. My hope is that a new “customer-focused” and “open” NARA will truly recognize and serve the needs of researchers, who use the precious resources the agency maintains.

    Thank you.

  3. I am looking forward to our discussions next week during our NARA advisory committee meeting this week. I’m excited that we finally seem to be moving forward in this critical sphere that is vital to all citizens.

  4. Congratulations to you and everybody at NARA, David! This is fabulous progress toward laudable goals for NARA that everybody in the archival profession should be excited about.

  5. There is no doubt that it will be hard work but I am optimistic “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” (John F. Kennedy, Sept. 12, 1962)

  6. We’ve already contacted Tom Mills about the role internal RM needs to play in the transformation; and he’s already gotten back with us! We’re transforming NARA’s internal records management program as NARA transforms itself! We are SO in!

  7. I’m really excited about the six transformations – especially “An Open NARA.” I hope as an agency we can become leaders for the rest of the federal government in openness and employee and public engagement.

  8. Exciting times ahead in making this a reality. Sorry I can’t be part of the team to make it happen.

  9. I am definitely in! I always tell my family and friends that NARA is a wonderful place to work – we have an honest mission that does right by the American people. I, too, look forward to moving our agency ahead! Thank you for your awesome leadership!

  10. I’m in! Thanks for sharing. Being new to the agency, I am especially looking forward to being a part of this progress.

  11. I’m in! And I am very excited to see the emphasis on “A Customer-Focused Organization.” I trust this means researchers as well as museum visitors. I received excellent service from Emily in the research room last Thursday night, and am grateful for her focus on customers.

  12. Congratulations, David and NARA. Your colleagues in the states look forward to working with you as we all seek to transform our operations to make them more transparent, responsive and communicative. Thank you for your leadership in this very important and crucial endeavor.

  13. Change is good … especially when it allows the customer to make comments on those changes. Congragulations on making things better. Though, I am still waiting to be allowed to use the bathroom when I arrive after a long commute!!!

  14. You bet I am in! I am particularly excited about the changes that are underway to raise awareness of the important work NARA does and to improve the workplace for NARA staff.

  15. Congratulations on a Director that is thinking positive and uniting all forces for a Better NARA! I look forward to researching even more than I already have! Let’s hope this spirit and openess flows over to the various outlying NARA facilities.

  16. David and NARA Staff – thank you for your leadership and willingness to embrace change and growth for the benefit of all!
    As a researcher, I look forward to watching NARA change, grow and become the agency we see the potential for!

  17. Count me in. I look forward to building upon our past as we transform NARA for the future.

  18. Thank you so much for doing what so many agencies in our government don’t seem to be willing to do. Embrace the technology as a tool and it will make you a stronger, better entity in the eyes of the people.
    I’m IN!

  19. I’m a researcher and am so glad to hear this. Change for the sake of change is not always good but change for improvement is what gets us better information. Go for it.

  20. Now as an employee at NARA and formerly as a researcher, I’ve seen a lot of improvement and I look forward to more. Our researchers deserve the best the we can do and I think new approaches will bring us there.

  21. Indeed, I’m in. May we forge ahead buoyed by what is best about us, braced against the tempest, strengthened by the place we hold in our Democracy.

  22. It’s 9:15 somewhere, and I’m in, and I’ll be in as we move NARA ahead. Exciting times for all of us!!

  23. I’ll let this quote speak for me:

    “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

  24. If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.
    Let’s see what butterflies emerge.

  25. David, This is an open and positive step in the right direction. As an outside observer, I am glad to see NARA engaged in some valuable re-conceptualization of its public roles and its organizational structure. Let me know if I can provide any assistance or support.

    Rand Jimerson
    Western Washington University

  26. I’m in, and always will be when plans call for changes to transform NARA into a leadership hub … not just in government, but in the global archives community. Fine examples of NARA leadership are already evident in description, social media, open government, etc., but we can do more. Here’s hoping NARA management will listen closely to its leaders in the ranks.

    Jerry Simmons
    NARA Authority Team Lead

  27. NARA must develop into an unsurpassed institution, at the forefront of archival theory and practice. If in my small way I’m able to contribute toward its cultural metamorphosis, I do so willingly.

  28. As a researcher I am happy to respond to your call for flexibility and foresight. I am very optimistic about these proposed initiatives for reorganization, but I also understand that this is going to take a long time. I hope we’ll be able to help each other successfully address the challenges that lay ahead as they emerge. I wish the NARA staff, and David much success as they work hard to reflect the ideologies represented by this new organizational model, and embark on a mission that appears to be quite a risk, and I respect the courage that will be exemplified in the coming years. I especially would like to show my support to the leadership as they will likely face unfamiliar burdens. It is a daunting task; however, I am very excited to see what unfolds over the next few years!

  29. In order to be successful in life, we must learn to embrace change. Change can be a very positive thing when it improves your lifestyle. Be open to change for what you can learn from it. I am in!

  30. This is a significant development. Good news. It can’t be easy to try and alter an entire agency culture. All the best in this endeavor.

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