Aliina Rowe explains how to use your unique networks, skills and experience to manage information during organizational change

Without a doubt, you and your organization are faced with changes ahead. Maybe you have a new team or executive to onboard, have technological changes coming, or there may be a new strategy your processes no longer align with and you have to start anew. On top of any planned changes, just around the corner there will be a change you’ll have to manage that you never even anticipated.

What do you need to succeed when faced with these changes? Patience and perseverance, to be sure. But along with this, you need to be ready to build strong foundations proactively and continuously to approach change within yourself, with the leaders and teams you support, and in your organization as a whole.

When it comes to change, these strong foundations greatly rest on how information is managed: acquiring relevant information, assessing information, and then leveraging information in the best way possible.

We need good information to engage in change with promise and potential. In your administrative professional role, this is a great opportunity for you to bring your skills, your experience, and your unique networks of information to the table – alongside the people you support.

Image © Aliina Rowe 2023

A Unique Role and Perspective in Managing Information

In studying and researching organizational change through the lens of an Assistant, I’ve come to fully appreciate the vital role Assistants play when it comes to building foundations needed for change in ways both big and small. You’ve likely heard Assistants collectively referred to as the “gatekeepers” of organizations. But the role is much more dynamic than simply “minding the gate,” especially when it comes to managing information.

Assistants are in constant pursuit of getting the right and relevant information needed to stay on top of matters in their organizations for the leaders and teams they support. The Global Skills Matrix lists “information collection and management” from the very first level of the matrix because it is fundamental to the role from the start and at every further level. If Assistants don’t have the information needed, it falls under their responsibility to know where and how to find it. As Assistants progress from working in a reactive way to a proactive way – and as trust builds to take on more responsibility and access to information grows – the stakes of how Assistants go about managing information become even higher.

     Entry Level    Transactional  Transactional + Strategic  Strategic  Chief of Staff
    Selected skills from the Global Skills Matrix needed for focus on acquiring and assessing information  Information collection and management   Attention to detail and accuracy   Discretion, confidentiality & integrity   Teamwork          Strong communication skills   Time management, prioritizing   Decision-making   Ethical and cultural awareness    Higher level communication skills   Data analysis   Understanding of the organization’s & executive(s)’ objectives, goals & KPIs   Awareness of staff morale    Critical thinking   Complex analysis and evaluation   Sector-specific specialism or technical knowledge   Proactive support & drive for organization’s objectives  High-level communication & interpersonal skills   Broad understanding of all areas of the business   Advanced research, analysis & briefing  
Figure 2: Information Matters – An adaptation of the Global Skills Matrix. Source: World Administrators Alliance

Assistants are uniquely positioned in their organizations, and therefore their information flow is also unique. In many organizational structures, an Assistant is situated “off to the side,” working from an “island” in an organization, connected only by the leader they support. This could lend itself to being disconnected, but more often than not it lends itself to Assistants being highly networked colleagues across all levels of an organization, managing information from entry level to the C-Suite and everywhere in between.

Managing this information flow in and out of the busyness and the business of the people that Assistants support can have a massive impact on where leaders and teams focus their time and attention. This is no mere gate-keeping task – this information management task requires quick reaction, analysis, prioritizing and re-prioritizing, and forward-thinking. It also requires going about managing information in a helpful and empathetic way, an area where Assistants often excel.

Assistants may start to bring focus and attention to change initiatives by asking, for example: What does the executive and team need to know? Which information is important and requires action and which information can wait? How can this information be best communicated?

How Can We Get the Information We Need?

We’ve all experienced changes in the way we receive our information in recent years in both our personal lives and within our organizations. Between changing social media platforms and business technology platforms, how we take in information – as well as how we reach out and connect to others with information – has been majorly impacted. In some cases, we’ve experienced information overload. In other cases, we’ve been further confined to our information silos. The implications for these changes in information flow is high, especially when it comes to approaching change.

Keeping up with all the changing information streams and filtering to get to the information that we really need can be overwhelming. Doing so requires different approaches depending on the organization and the challenges ahead. But however different those approaches may be, it is imperative to “stay in the know.”

Three Ways to “Stay in the Know” – Adapted from Research Literature

In studying and researching organizational change through the lens of an Assistant,

one particular framework stood out as a highly relevant and practical way to manage information within the Assistant role. In their article “Staying in the Know,” authors Davide Nicolini, Maja Korica, and Keith Ruddle explain the importance of having and routinely maintaining a “Personal Knowledge Infrastructure” (PKI) in order to acquire the right information. They further explain the importance of how C-Suite leaders and executives design and maintain their PKI through their own personal lens. Their framework centers on the evaluation of three components to “stay in the know”: relationships, routine practices, and tools and technologies.

Read on for an adaptation of their PKI Framework to the role of the Assistant and to learn how Assistants can work with the leaders and teams they support to stay on top of managing information.

Start with reflection

There is no single best approach to how someone manages information. This should give you the freedom to think about your own personal situation, and those of the people you support, to set yourselves up to manage information in the best way possible.

This adapted framework urges us to first reflect on:

  1. Where is your organization right now and what are the challenges and changes that you’re facing?
  2. Do you, and the executives and teams you support, have the right combination of people and tools in place to get the information you need and to stay on top of things?
  3. What information channels are most suitable and comfortable for you and the executive and teams you support?

Asking these questions will highlight priorities and bring focus to what kind of information is needed now. This will change over time depending on the situation. Take the time to pause and reflect as a matter of routine and adapt where needed.

Once you have taken the time to reflect, evaluate your relationships, routines, and resourcesin place to set you up for having the right information when it comes to engaging with change.

Evaluate relationships

Evaluate your relationships both inside and outside of the organization:

  • Inner circle within organization
  • Peers
  • Network of former colleagues and network of industry leaders


  1. Are you nurturing the relationships needed for continued collaboration and exchange of information?
  2. Are the relationships you have conducive to meaningful conversations, including acting as a sounding board?
  3. Do you have a devil’s advocate amongst those relationships in order to have a different point of view and different information?

Having the right relationships in place opens the door to opportunities to communicate about changes effectively, to be able to speak openly to those impacted, and to have knowledgeable peers that can be approached when needed.

Evaluate routine practices

Evaluate your routines over the working day and over a larger timeframe, including:

  • Walkabouts
  • Meetings, including 1-2-1s and team meetings
  • Catch-ups and Check-ins


  1. What routine practices are in place to accomplish the daily work and steer focus?
  2. Are those routine practices conducive to acquiring the right and relevant information?
  3. Is a suitable combination of in-person and virtual practices in place?

Evaluating routine practices can foster meaningful network opportunities for yourself and the executives and teams you support. For example, plan in-person meetings to have peers and inner circle together face-to-face well in advance. Make space in your calendars for catch-ups when in the office and keep virtual meetings where they can be virtual.

Evaluate resources: Tools and technologies

Evaluate the tools and technologies being used and their suitability to the kinds of information needed:

  • Email, phone, chat
  • Journal articles, books, magazines
  • Social media, blogs, newsletters
  • KPIs, reporting, data and dashboards


  1. Are you subscribed to the right information channels?
  2. Are you using technology that benefits you best and is suitable for how you work?
  3. Are you communicating where the team is communicating?

Evaluating sources of information can shed light on opportunities to improve information flow. Adjust where needed: subscribe or unsubscribe, adapt to or cut out technology platforms, sign on or sign off, and determine the most relevant data and content needed.

Looking at Information in a New Way

We can all benefit from developing new ways of looking at information, starting with the best way to get the information we need. Assistants play a valuable role in ensuring not only that information is flowing, but also that it is enough of the right information to stay on top of things, especially in times of change.

Ultimately, how we manage information matters a great deal if we want to collectively glean a fuller, brighter, and more detailed picture of what change looks like in our organizations – both planned and unplanned.

There is another change coming around the corner. Now is the time to step up in your role and take the time to reflect on how unique and valuable your skills, experience, and networks are for managing information in your organizations.


Dr. Maja Korica, Davide Nicolini, & Keith Ruddle. “Stay in the Know,” MIT Sloan Management Review (June 2015).

Aliina Rowe is a proud, experienced Executive Assistant who champions the unique and integral role of the Assistant in good, meaningful and impactful organizational change. She is a certified Change Management Practitioner and recently earned an Executive ... (Read More)

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