Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an approach to viewing the “wicked” problem of electronic records management (ERM), using the Cynefin framework, a sense-making tool. It re-conceptualises the ERM challenge by understanding the nature of the people issues. This supports decision making about the most appropriate tactics to adopt to effect positive change. Design/methodology/approach – Cynefin was used to synthesise qualitative data from an empirical research project that investigated strategies and tactics for improving ERM. Findings – ERM may be thought of as a dynamic, complex challenge but, viewed through the Cynefin framework, many issues are not complex; they are simple or complicated and can be addressed using best or good practice. The truly complex issues need a different approach, described as emergent practice. Cynefin provides a different lens through which to view, make sense of and re-perceive the ERM challenge and offers a strategic approach to accelerating change. Research limitations/implications – Since Cynefin has been applied to one data set, the findings are transferrable not generalisable. They, and/or the approach, can be used to further test the propositions. Practical implications – The resultant ERM framework provides a practical example for information and records managers to exploit or use as a starting point to explore the situation in particular organisational contexts. It could also be used in other practical, teaching and/or research-related records contexts. Originality/value – This paper provides a new strategic approach to addressing the wicked problem of ERM, which is applicable for any organisational context.