An interview with Dr. Mouloud Sotoudeh

The Oral History of Executive Systems Is the Result of a Collective Wisdom

Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Fazel Shirzad


Note: As oral history's website reported, it was regulated to specify the plans and challenges of National Documents and Library Organization in the twentieth meeting of the cabinets of Iran's Islamic republic in Tir 1395(July 2016), as follows:" the executive systems can compile oral history of their dependent organization according the notified principle of National Documents and Library Organization".

This organization, as an executive system responsible for the plan, took proceedings throughout the country; so that the reporter of Iranian oral history's website held an interview with Dr. Mouloud Sotoudeh who is an expert of National Documents and Library Organization in the central district of Iran (i.e. Isfahan), to be aware of the executive process of the cabinet's resolution in the field of record of executive systems’ oral history in this city. Dr. Sotoudeh states: "office" is as a system for recording the oral history of executive system; it has an independent identity and experts in different posts, are members of a collective wisdom who stated their opinion and had roles in different situation and times. This experimental transformation and intergenerational discussion caused us to find the methods and kinds of an organization's collective wisdom."


What was your first action to do the resolution of cabinet concerning with the record of oral history for executive systems?

The resolution of oral history was sent to us by Dr. Ghulam Reza Azizi who is the chairman of research house of National Documents Organization to codify oral history for executive systems of some provinces such as Isfahan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Markazi, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad. We sent this resolution to governors; they notified this resolution, through circulars, to own subclasses by electronic governmental system.


What organizations are executive system?

There are lots of executive system such as state government, governorships, governmental offices, Mayoralty - and even universities- banks, schools etc.


What is the role of National Documents and Library Organization to perform the cabinet's resolution?

National Documents and Library of Iran's Islamic republic is a national archive of Iran and we have tried to collect documentaries and offices correspondence; we found that these modern and conducted information do not consist lots of marginal ones; therefore, National Documents and Library required to use oral history and executive systems which has major role to produce National documents to compensate the gapes. During these days, of course different people and institution have worked in the field of oral history. But they, in fact, have worked diffusely and without Archive structure to prevent the diffuseness, to reach the goal and apply oral history to prevent of personal preference and to make a coordinated system in the field of recording oral history of executive system, National Documents and Library organization intends to provide an opportunity for all governmental organization throughout the country to work in the field of oral history with a single structure.


Of course, some of military system (e.g. Sepah) are working in the field of oral history to transfer their experiences. Aren't they?

Yes. But it is needed to record directorial subjects as well. Oral history's archives, in fact, is one of the best way to transfer experiment, because when a manager actualize her/his ideas s/he will be encounter with some disagreements and agreements, and marginal problem will effect on his/her decisions. In official letters, these problem are less considered, but an opportunity is provided by using oral history to specify the marginal situations and effects.


How can interviewees be chosen in each executive system?

According to the circulars of oral history's preparation for executive systems, more than one hundred experts of executive system were introduced in the first period. We, of course, suggested the organization to introduce three of their experts. If an expert, for any reason, is not able to work with his/her group, the process won't be damaged. Some feature are determined to introduce experts as follows:" they should have interest to work in the field of oral history, they should be scholar and able to study on documentations; It will be caused to save time and cost, if the experts are chosen from their groups.


How will workshop be held?

The workshop will be held for 40 hours; 20 hours as attendance course, and 20 as non-attendance course. The colleagues, in fact, will train the experts about the methods of interviews, principles, concepts and procedure, for 20 hours. In this workshop, the methods, principles and preparations of the oral history of offices will be trained in a coordinated system. Of course, the results will be surly different concerning the nature and function of each organization. During the workshop, we are going to educate the experts as to study on resources beside the methods of oral history. The most important study can be done to help conducting the question of interviews and the methods of management and execution of organization is correspondence that are available in archive of each organization. In fact, the archives is as a written memory of an office. Beside the correspondence, the managers also have some memoirs about their members; these memoirs can be integrated and create a compiled history for an office. In the workshops, the experts will be taught how they can use of available documents of an archive, and archive play a major role to give information and achieve targeted program. As a matter of fact, an interviewer should be fully prepared to interview with managers and officials of organization.


Is the process as a study before interview?

Yes. It is possible, on the other hand, a manager is not able to remember all of process and memoirs; so, the documents can help them easily and accurately.


It is possible to use available movies of managers' speech in congresses or meeting. Isn’t it?

Yes. All of the information can be used; pictures, photos, tapes. Available documents in the archives of offices or National Documents Organization can be used to remember what events have already been occurred.


Will the interview of manager in the field of oral history be filmed concurrently?

It depends on the budget of each offices. Public Relation Unit of each organization is surly equipped by camera; the interview can be filmed easily. If the interview are recorded by camera, the feeling – sadness, happiness and affection- of interviewers will be tangible for viewer.


Will the oral history of executive system be only collected from managers?

No. an experienced or retired staff, who has a full information, can be a subject for interviewers. The purpose is to study on an organization or system, from beginning to end, to find when it has started works and how it has acted up to now and what challenge it has encountered with. In other words, how has an organization been moved from one point to another point?


Are you going to do interview with past managers?

Yes. The interviewer will do interview with past managers and experts who are alive and able to remember their memoirs. Remarkably, when the documents of an organization is studied, some experts who are on margin of decision, because of some reason, will be also introduced as main members of interviews. Sometimes managers, due to some reason, are not familiar with the structure of organization; so, an old manager play a major role in advancement of his/her organization's activity. As a result, there is an opportunity to introduce elite experts. In this program, we are not going to pay attention only on managers; those, who is able to give accurate and comprehensive information, can be as interviewee. At last, we help the organizations to prepare, edit and publish the book of oral history.


What do you think about the effect of the books on statesmanship?

Our perspective is manifold; at first, we will find when as organization or system is established and how it is being changed. Second, administrations will accurately be informed of environmental and official situation and the staffs of their sub-officer in provinces. These books can be used for the ministries. It means a ministry can find the features, barriers and problems of managers and senior experts in provinces by a general perspective to a series of compiled information; the ministries can use of different strategies. These information can also be used for provinces. In other words, the governor of a city can easily find present fluctuations and discover many of problems radically. Now, these perspectives, at a broader level – e.g. in provinces - can provide a broader perspective on executive system. The importance of this matter is that these interviews can gain a deep perspective for macro management on sub-systems. These perspective cause challenges, barriers, fluctuations and intellectual ability to be recognized, and the native local condition, intellectual methods, work and directional creativities of executive system also causes to create an informational network; it results in transferring experience in different administrative levels. Such oral histories can be used for members of cities council and lawmakers, and it can even be used for macro levels i.e. the cabinet of government. The oral histories cause the weak and strong aspects of administrative methods lead executive systems to be cleared and applied.


What is value of the transfer of experience?

When it is tried to tell the experience from the past to now, the achievement of past and today's will be used by future managers. Anyway, former and today's managers have led their members along with other governmental system concerning temporal situation and present facilities; based on recognition, a future manager will have a deep information about his/her members, through studying on the achievement, and s/he  use of the experience. So, the managers will lead achievements of former managers, of course, the weak aspects of former managers will be also recognized in this process; it will cause difficulties for managers, because they'll be always criticized and evaluated by oral history.


Nevertheless, it causes the managers not to make administrative mistakes. Doesn’t it?

Yes. For many situations, we have worked in the method of trial and error; therefore, many cessations have been taken place in the administrative process of different executive systems. Whereas, if the experience of former managers was transferred to today and future a lot of the mistakes would be prevented.


Are the organizations different in the methods of interview? Is there any sample of book to give the expert of offices?

Every organization is in different in recording oral history based on identity, essence and function. But they are same in the methods of oral history. Despite oral history have been improved since Islamic revolution of Iran, only a few memoirs of senior expert of governmental organization are record; that is why it creates a huge vacuum. That is a book named "unfinished service", including the perspectives and experience of General Yahi who is as political and security assistant of Isfahan's governor, published in the method of oral history based on his activities in governorship. Of course, some interviews were held in 1394(2015), but they were about the activities of General Rasoul Yahi, from Esfahd 1392(March 2013) to Ordibehesht 1394 (May 2015), as a political security assistant of Isfahan governor. I can say about the book: "he was so brave that he liked his administrative method to be criticized by public. General Yahi has spoken about administrative methods, decision and activities obviously, clearly and technically concerning problems, facilities and it is better to say conditions.


Such books are in the field of oral history, and the interview are not repeatable, even if interviewer made a mistake. Since experts of offices have less experience in the field of oral history, do you get any plan for preventing possible mistakes in the process of interview?

In the workshops, we'll try to teach the methods of interview, and we will be with interviewer once during interview until the expert to be perfected.


Would not it be better to use of the educated persons in history?

The problem is that the educated persons of history are not familiar with the formation of governmental system and duty cycles. If, of course, the experts of organizations are educated in history, it will be better. Anyway, oral history is a field where everyone is able work in, and can be succeed with a little care and interest. Interest, patience, mood and specially being familiar with organization are first condition; the interviewer should be preferably chosen among the experts of each organization, because they are familiar with own organization. To familiarize other with an organization waste time a lot, but using the experts of an organization cause the oral history of governmental organization to be encountered with less challenges.


Are you able to dismiss some of interviews?

On the one hand, some interest in the field of oral history's archive; so, they won't remain weak and they will surly improve as much as necessary, he/he certainly will be able to do interview well interacting with National Documents Organization has great experience and intellectual capacity in the field of history, and all of us interest in transferring our experience for colleagues, and the workshops will be held for free.


Unfortunately, an undeniable problem in the field of administration is that there are only some manager who are criticizable for mistakes. This is certainly one of the supreme challenges in the field of offices’ oral history. How will you solve this problem?

We are not going catch sb with pants down; we are going to compile oral history for organizations. Yes, it is possible to encounter with such problems, but experts not only will do an interview with senior managers, assistants and experts, but also they will do interview with former officials; each of them will retell some parts of history. It means, one system is not limited on one person or one sense, but it studies on the evolution of a system in different times. On the other hand, the expert can use of present documents of national archive too get more realistic opinion. By this method, the managers will come along with us truly. In other words, we treat a office as an system which it has an independent identity and soul, and a system whose experts, in different position, are as component of an collective wisdom played a major role and expressed their opinion in different times and situation. To transfer the experience and converse between past and present generation cause us to realize the method and kind of collective wisdom in a organization. It is not possible to trace an idealistic climate for the collective wisdom, but it improves our understanding of what have been occurred, and it provides an opportunity to complete the experience interchange, and helps us in the way of the evolution.


Does Documents Organization give any questionnaire package to interviewers?

Yes, it is partly. We will divided the packages of questions in two types: general and specific questions. General question consists history and biography of people and considered organization, but specific questions of each executive system consists special contents. To achieve such goals, the expert should search for the special keywords of their organization and elicit them. It is possible to determine more than on hundreds keywords for organization. These keywords will be categorized according the fields such as economic, policy, culture, sociality and beliefs. At last, some of question, based on the keywords, will be elicited by some interrogative phases such as how, how, and why.


When have the workshops been begun?

They have been begun after Ramadan month (July 2017). We are holding workshops for experts of Isfahan's executive systems since four week ago. It is tried to have only some participant for each workshops to interact with each other well. We are not in hurry to finish the courses; we are at the beginning of way. The colleagues of Tehran are at the ready to teach; they are going to come Isfahan. Some parts of material, of course, will be taught online; and supplementary information will be announced through National Documents and Library Organization. We, little by little, should travel to province Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Markazi, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad. We are trying to publish some books in the field of oral history for executive systems of Isfahan during the next 2 years.

Number of Visits: 773


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