The Trouble with Tribbles

by Vicki Pratt

Are there any Star Trek fans out there?  I mean for the original television show that aired in the late 60s.  I can’t believe how a 60’s science fiction show has managed to impact our lives technologically.  Shoot – we even can thank that show for bringing us the germination of ComicCon!

My favorite episode from that original show was, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  Do you remember it? In this episode, Kirk and crew answer a Priority One Distress call from Deep Space Station K7.  While helping the station out with their problem, they authorize shore leave at a nearby planet for the crew of the Enterprise.  While on the planet, the crew is introduced to a new species of animal called “Tribbles”.

Tribbles are small, furry, cuddly, ‘animals’ that purr and coo when you hold them.  You cannot help but be in a good mood when they are around. You fall in love with them…You cannot do without them.  But there’s a problem. If you feed them too much, they breed exponentially. Like crazy bunnies on steroids!

Soon, some that were brought on board the Enterprise were multiplying so quickly that they were getting into the food processors, the storage containers, on the bridge…even finding their way to the engine room.  They had to do something quickly, or the Enterprise would be destroyed!

I sometimes consider our records and information as Tribbles.  Like Tribbles, they are warm, make you feel good, and you can’t live without them.  You can’t help but fall in love with them. You keep them around, even secretly keeping some “on board”.  The problem is they multiply. Before you know it, we will have so much Non-essential information clogging up our servers and shared drives that we too, may bring down the “Enterprise”!

If you find this is happening at your “Enterprise”, then it’s time to create a Records Cleanup program.  At our company, we begin these activities in October and work through the end of the year.  We provide training on how to use the Records Retention Schedule to help the User clean up their information.  The training applies to both physical and electronic versions.

Our users ask three questions to determine what to do with their information:

  1. Is it a record?  (At our company, a record is defined as “Information that justifies, documents, or approves a business decision or action)  
    1. If the answer is no, then the file should be destroyed (once its usefulness is over)
    2. If the answer is yes, then answer #2.
  2. Is it your record to keep?  (At our company the only official record is the one managed by the Process Owner.)
    1. If the answer is no, then the file should be destroyed (once its usefulness is over)
    2. If the answer is yes, then answer #3.
  3. Has the Record met its retention?  (the User will review the Records Retention Schedule to determine the length of time before disposition of any record)
    1. If the answer is YES, then the file should be destroyed.
    2. If the answer is NO, then the file should be organized in such a way that next year’s record cleanup activities are easier to take care of.

…  By the way, what happened to the Tribbles?  Well, of course, Scotty transported them to a Klingon Ship’s engineering room, where the Tribbles’ ability to multiply would keep the Klingon’s quite busy.  Maybe in time, the Klingon’s will get to love the Tribbles…after all, it is hard to stay mad with a Tribble around.


Vicki Pratt has had over 40 years experience in the field of office management, with the last 18 years specifically in the field of records management and document control.  In addition to her love of reading, she is an avid quilter, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother to three crazy and energetic grandchildren.  She received her ITIL in 2015, and her CRM in 2016.

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