Follow the Yellow Brick Road

By Bob Larrivee posted 08-24-2012 09:47


This is what the Munchkins in the movie the Wizard of Oz told Dorothy when she asked how to get to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. It is a simple set of instructions and the process is clear, follow the yellow brick road. Wouldn’t it be great if your organizational processes were that simple and clear. When someone asks how to do something you would simply say, follow the documented process. Unfortunately, many organizations do not have well documented processes if they are documented at all and this, can translate to risk.

As an example, I was reading a case summary on the Electronic Discovery Law site about the case between Naaco Materials Handling Group, Inc. v. Lilly Co. titled “Sanctions Ordered for Failure to Adequately Preserve, Search for, and Collect Potentially Relevant Information”, where it seems there was a failure to initiate a process related to discovery and litigation hold. When the complaint was issued – the trigger for the litigation hold and discovery to begin – a process should have been in place to properly address the complaint requirements. This means no further destruction of related or relevant information along with steps to search for, collect, and preserve all relevant information. It is a process. As a result of the apparent failure to do so, the ordered that the defendant:

  • Bear the cost of a second deposition
  • Bear the cost of the forensic examinations and imaging already undertaken
  • Bear the costs of additional analysis of nine of defendant’s employees’ computers which were used to access plaintiff's website
  • Bear the costs of imaging of all computers in defendant’s service department
  • Pay monetary sanctions equal to plaintiff’s reasonable costs, including attorney’s fees, associated with bringing the present motion
  • Provide a detailed affidavit outlining its preservation and collection efforts and certification that automatic delete functions had been suspended and that backup tapes containing unique evidence were also preserved  

In my view, this is a prime example of where organizations put themselves at risk needlessly and could avoid such risks with planning and awareness that process counts for more than many think or realize. Ask yourself this question, if you were faced with legal actions today, could you without doubt stand in the court and prove that all reasonable measures were taken to search for, collect, and preserve the relevant information, and defend your position? Wouldn’t you feel better and more confident in your defense if you could present documented proof of your process, the fact it was implemented and the monitoring methods used to ensure adherence? I know I would.

While it is not as simple as telling your employees to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, you should be able to say follow the documented process. Make process and process improvement part of your organizational culture. Document the way you do business, create process maps showing the steps needed to achieve the final outcome, and work to improve upon those processes.  Not only will it help in times of audit or litigation but you will gain benefit from knowing exactly how things get done and how they can be improved to increase efficiency, effectiveness and operational capacity.

If you are ready to move forward and are finding yourself stuck or unfocused and are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started. Be sure to investigate AIIM'sBusiness Process Management training program.

And be sure to read the AIIM Training Briefing on BPM (authored by yours truly). Click on the image to download and read.

What say you? Do you have a story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.

Bob Larrivee, Director and Industry Advisor – AIIM
Email me:

Follow me on Twitter – BobLarrivee    

#Case #litigation #Wizard #InformationGovernance #ScanningandCapture #BusinessProcessManagement
1 comment


08-28-2012 12:29

"..... if you were faced with legal actions today, could you without doubt stand in the court and prove that all reasonable measures were taken to search for, collect, and preserve the relevant information, and defend your position?" ARGHHHHHHHHH! No, no, make it stop! Assuming fetal position under desk.....
Seriously, as a large manufacturing firm, we can't use "receipt of a complaint" as our trigger for a hold because less than one percent of the those become anything resembling legal action. But we did put substantial time and effort into figuring out WHEN a hold is appropriate. Everyone should.