I think about the many Clerk and Recorder offices I’ve toured and worked with over the past 15 years, and there are always similarities. No matter on what coast or fruited plain, a Recorder’s office represents a unique snapshot into the sometimes frantic life of this industry. It is represented by the unique tools found in each of them, from the file and time stamping machines to the carrels of manual stamps at every desk.
My purpose in these offices never varies much: observe and suggest changes, generally in relation to new technology solutions. However, in many places I’ve observed, it’s not the technology or lack thereof that makes an impression but rather the office itself. I consistently see printers and other equipment haphazardly shoved into any available empty space, and sometimes not quite empty. In these offices, the frantic movement of everyone from the regular researcher to the one-time user with interminable questions to the worker’s constant up/down/back/forth motions combines with the collective background noise of phone rings, printers, copiers, and the buzz of hushed conversation to leave a realization that there is no time for a holistic approach to streamline the office flow. But it’s important enough to pause momentarily and make time.
Workflow does not only apply to electronic process, but applies to physical process – and perhaps the physical process is what needs to be addressed first. Can anyone be expected to index their daily quota without first thinking about what they need to be successful? If the indexer is also answering questions from the public or processing mail, will he or she be successful? If the printer is across the room from them, does it make sense for the cashier to print copies and walk back and forth all day long? Why is it placed there to begin with? This question of “Why?” is perhaps the most annoying question that has ever existed. Whether it’s a toddler or an visitor to your office, nobody really likes to hear it, nor is there sometimes any satisfactory answer for anyone, especially if it’s “Because I said so.”
But “Why?” is a question that must be asked, and it’s a question you can ask yourself. And unless you have a satisfactory answer, there is no reason not to change anything about your process. Because whether you have just implemented a new technology solution or are just getting started, everyone can benefit from this question. I often find myself asking myself the same one, and wish I could approach my own workflow from a different perspective, knowing I would be able to see many opportunities for streamlining.
This is why I look forward to the winter conference for PRIA (Property Recording Industry Association). With sessions specific to up-and-coming technology for the Recorder’s office and the opportunity to work with industry peers in the committee workgroups, I always learn valuable insight into different facets of this industry. I find I may never be able to answer the question “Why?” but rather answer “How?”