What’s in a name?

“A rose by any other name would name would smell as sweet” is a frequently referenced quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet…. meaning that the name is not as important as the object itself. This blog post is a departure for me. Rather than bring you some great announcement , revelation or insight into some aspect of records management, I’m going to jot down a few thoughts about an issue I’m struggling with a little at the moment. I hope you stick with me on this!

An industry group I support and get myself involved with is proposing to change its name. It has had the same name since it formed over 35 years ago and the name was a reasonable reflection of what the group did at that time (though not perfect). However, over time – and especially over the last 10 years or so – the focus of the group has changed. Reflecting the needs of industry, the changing regulatory framework and the way records management has evolved, the group now meets the needs of a much broader spectrum of individuals and the work they do. As a result, the name no longer reflects what the group is about. It is also a sad but true fact that in some quarters, the name is actually an issue of fun, embarrassment or ridicule.

Does it matter? I think the answer depends on your perspective.

From the perspective of a member of the group – just as in Romeo and Juliet – the name should not really matter. I join a group because of what the group does and what it stands for…. the name is rather inconsequential. I couldn’t really care less if AIIM, ARMA, IRMS, RQA etc, etc changed their name (as most of them actually have done in the past!). What matters is what these organisations do.

But from the perspective of the group itself, the name definitely matters. The name is a major marketing tool to say to prospective members what the group does. It is there to signify to stakeholders and bodies that the group is trying to influence and engage with that the group has relevance. It is there to attract attendees to events, meetings, conferences and training courses by aligning itself with the professional development needs of those individuals. Thus, a name may carry a valid historical significance but it no longer has resonance with most members or with the population that the group is aiming to attract….. and therefore needs to change.

So this blog post comes out of a sense of frustration from those who cling on to a name that represents the past rather than seize the opportunity to take us forwards into the next 35 years. For me, the past should be respected but the future should be prepared.

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About rammellel

Records management consultant to the life sciences / pharmaceutical industry
This entry was posted in Records management practice, Training. Bookmark the permalink.

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