Recipe for Success – Alias: Recertification

When facing the task of recertifying or amending a state agency or public university records retention schedule, whether it is annually, biennially, or most often, quinquennially, there are different metaphors Your Helpful Government Information Analyst may use to think about how the assignment can be approached. Some of the metaphors an analyst might consider are planning a trip, preparing for a meeting, moving to a new home, arranging a party, or writing a recipe. What do all these things have in common? They involve planning, organization, notes, lists, research, time, and a little creativity.

In this post, the focus will be the comparison between amending and recertifying state agency retention schedules and creating and writing recipes. This is something that everyone who cooks does, either daily or when making the occasional snack, whether they realize it or not. Even if someone has never actively written or consciously created a recipe from scratch, it is always used—whether it was from a cookbook, the side of a box, or something made with whatever was in the kitchen. 

Antique recipe box and recipes

Why Do Revisions Matter?

Why is the recertification of a state agency schedule important? First, with every legislative session there are new and revised laws and statutes that necessitate updates of the State Records Retention Schedule (RRS) and State University Records Retention Schedule (URRS). Second, between and over the course of an agency’s or university’s recertification, there are internal changes that may affect their business operations. As a result, an agency’s retention schedules are revised, amended, updated, and approved (in other words, recertified) so they reflect these changes to comply with state law and statute.

In recipe terms, a revision could mean changing ingredients because a change in your diet is required for any reason. It could also mean certain ingredients are no longer available, customizing a recipe for your guests’ dietary needs, figuring out ingredient ratios when multiplying a recipe, looking to experiment with an existing recipe, or just because it’s a day that ends in “y”.

Choclate Cake Ingredients

Gathering the Ingredients

A recipe is, of course, comprised of ingredients. For instance, the ingredients for a cake could include flour, sugar, cocoa, eggs, extract, butter, milk, and baking powder. In comparison, the ingredients in a retention schedule could include legal citations, Record Series Item Numbers (RSINs), Agency Item Numbers (AINs – a unique identifier assigned by an agency), titles, descriptions, retention periods, cross references, as well as caution and archives notes. If all the ingredients are mixed properly, there is either going to be fantastic cake or a very well written and concise records retention schedule.

When creating a recipe, the author must take into account things like the compatibility of ingredients, the amount of each ingredient, method and length of preparation, taste, and method of cooking. Similarly, when a schedule is being recertified, the analyst must consider changes in different editions of the RRS and URRS schedules, deleted and new series, locating duplicate AINs, finding the correct fit for stems (a record series identifier that doesn’t match a specific RSIN; its purpose is to show where the series would fall if there was an RSIN match), and overall consistency in the schedule.

Taste Testing

All newly written (or even revised) recipes can go through multiple reviews and revisions, known as taste (or recipe) testing. This is where peers (or even friends and family) can taste the recipe and give feedback on all aspects of the recipe, and revisions can be made as needed. The equivalent to this in records recertification is the peer review. Essentially, another analyst will review the work of the recertifying analyst and give feedback on any mistakes, issues that may have been missed, ask questions, and make suggestions.

There may be many times a recipe or a retention schedule will be revised, tested, and reviewed until it is determined to be as close to perfected as possible; this could happen only once or several times. When all the reviews and revisions are finished, the recipe is ready for sharing; and, in the case of a retention schedule, for approval and publication. The progression could take as much, or as little time as needed. The process also applies to the interaction between the analyst and RMO of the agency—the extra ingredients and garnishes that make the recipe special and unique.

Sharing Your Recipe

In the end, the recipe writer should feel confident those who consume the final recipe will believe it is the greatest dish they have ever tasted, or the analyst and agency agree on the final version of the recertified schedule so it can be approved and published.

Chocolate Cake Slice

The processes of writing a recertification and creating a recipe are surprisingly similar. The steps involved: review and research, gathering the ingredients, correct measurements, writing the first draft, taste tests, revisions, the final draft, approval, and finally, the finished product. If all goes well, everyone is rewarded with a well-made product.

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