21st Century Library Strategy – Change!


Last week during the Edgy Librarian webinar there were some excellent topics discussed. Lybrarian Blog has a nice review of some of it, with more to follow. One session that I listened to that peaked my interest was the “Culture Shift: How to Create a Library That’s Prepared for the Future” by Cheryl Gould, a non-librarian (if I understood correctly) engaged in training and consulting with libraries.

I thought it was fortuitous that this topic was on the agenda since my recent Posts about leadership and managership, and how that all fits with libraries becoming something more – changing. Change is a whole topic in itself as it relates to organizations. In the webinar the audience poll reflected that the majority believe libraries need change, and apparently some think their library is ready for it. Although the presenter has adopted the “Culture Shift” label for organizational change, it’s still the same situation by any name.

A perfect example of organizational culture is the Salt Lake City Public Library. I’m sure some of you followed the beleaguered situation of the director hired in 2009 after the director of MANY years, and SLCPL employee for 30+ years, retired. It did not go well for the new director – some say because she did not understand the organizational culture, tried to change it, and lost – lost her job and potentially ruined her career.

Point being – organizational culture and attempts to change it are monumental big deals! But, as I’ve advocated, along with others obviously, libraries must change if they ever hope to become a 21st Century Library – something more!

Here are some good tips – for those who would tackle that objective – from strategy+business article from April 15, 2004.

10 Principles of Change Management
Tools and techniques to help companies transform quickly.
By John Jones, DeAnne Aguirre, and Matthew Calderone

Way back when (pick your date), senior executives in large companies had a simple goal for themselves and their organizations: stability. Shareholders wanted little more than predictable earnings growth. Because so many markets were either closed or undeveloped, leaders could deliver on those expectations through annual exercises that offered only modest modifications to the strategic plan. Prices stayed in check; people stayed in their jobs; life was good.

Market transparency, labor mobility, global capital flows, and instantaneous communications have blown that comfortable scenario to smithereens. In most industries — and in almost all companies, from giants on down — heightened global competition has concentrated management’s collective mind on something that, in the past, it happily avoided: change. Successful companies, as Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter told s+b in 1999, develop “a culture that just keeps moving all the time.”

Long-term structural transformation has four characteristics: scale (the change affects all or most of the organization), magnitude (it involves significant alterations of the status quo), duration (it lasts for months, if not years), and strategic importance. Yet companies will reap the rewards only when change occurs at the level of the individual employee.

Many senior executives know this and worry about it. When asked what keeps them up at night, CEOs involved in transformation often say they are concerned about how the work force will react, how they can get their team to work together, and how they will be able to lead their people. They also worry about retaining their company’s unique values and sense of identity and about creating a culture of commitment and performance. Leadership teams that fail to plan for the human side of change often find themselves wondering why their best-laid plans have gone awry.

No single methodology fits every company, but there is a set of practices, tools, and techniques that can be adapted to a variety of situations. What follows is a “Top 10” list of guiding principles for change management. Using these as a systematic, comprehensive framework, executives can understand what to expect, how to manage their own personal change, and how to engage the entire organization in the process.

1. Address the “human side” systematically. Any significant transformation creates “people issues.” New leaders will be asked to step up, jobs will be changed, new skills and capabilities must be developed, and employees will be uncertain and resistant. Dealing with these issues on a reactive, case-by-case basis puts speed, morale, and results at risk. A formal approach for managing change — beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and leaders — should be developed early, and adapted often as change moves through the organization. …

2. Start at the top. Because change is inherently unsettling for people at all levels of an organization, when it is on the horizon, all eyes will turn to the CEO and the leadership team for strength, support, and direction. The leaders themselves must embrace the new approaches first, both to challenge and to motivate the rest of the institution. They must speak with one voice and model the desired behaviors. …

3. Involve every layer. As transformation programs progress from defining strategy and setting targets to design and implementation, they affect different levels of the organization. Change efforts must include plans for identifying leaders throughout the company and pushing responsibility for design and implementation down, so that change “cascades” through the organization. At each layer of the organization, the leaders who are identified and trained must be aligned to the company’s vision, equipped to execute their specific mission, and motivated to make change happen. …

4. Make the formal case. Individuals are inherently rational and will question to what extent change is needed, whether the company is headed in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making change happen. They will look to the leadership for answers. The articulation of a formal case for change and the creation of a written vision statement are invaluable opportunities to create or compel leadership-team alignment. …

5. Create ownership. Leaders of large change programs must overperform during the transformation and be the zealots who create a critical mass among the work force in favor of change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement that the direction of change is acceptable. It demands ownership by leaders willing to accept responsibility for making change happen in all of the areas they influence or control. Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying problems and crafting solutions. It is reinforced by incentives and rewards. …

6. Communicate the message. Too often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do. The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practicable. Communications flow in from the bottom and out from the top, and are targeted to provide employees the right information at the right time and to solicit their input and feedback. Often this will require overcommunication through multiple, redundant channels. …

7. Assess the cultural landscape. Successful change programs pick up speed and intensity as they cascade down, making it critically important that leaders understand and account for culture and behaviors at each level of the organization. Companies often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all. Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance. These diagnostics identify the core values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions that must be taken into account for successful change to occur. They serve as the common baseline for designing essential change elements, such as the new corporate vision, and building the infrastructure and programs needed to drive change.

8. Address culture explicitly. Once the culture is understood, it should be addressed as thoroughly as any other area in a change program. Leaders should be explicit about the culture and underlying behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business, and find opportunities to model and reward those behaviors. This requires developing a baseline, defining an explicit end-state or desired culture, and devising detailed plans to make the transition.

Company culture is an amalgam of shared history, explicit values and beliefs, and common attitudes and behaviors. Change programs can involve creating a culture (in new companies or those built through multiple acquisitions), combining cultures (in mergers or acquisitions of large companies), or reinforcing cultures (in, say, long-established consumer goods or manufacturing companies). Understanding that all companies have a cultural center — the locus of thought, activity, influence, or personal identification — is often an effective way to jump-start culture change. …

9. Prepare for the unexpected. No change program goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts. Effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation. Fed by real data from the field and supported by information and solid decision-making processes, change leaders can then make the adjustments necessary to maintain momentum and drive results. …

10. Speak to the individual. Change is both an institutional journey and a very personal one. People spend many hours each week at work; many think of their colleagues as a second family. Individuals (or teams of individuals) need to know how their work will change, what is expected of them during and after the change program, how they will be measured, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them. Team leaders should be as honest and explicit as possible. People will react to what they see and hear around them, and need to be involved in the change process. … It is all too tempting, however, to dwell on the plans and processes, which don’t talk back and don’t respond emotionally, rather than face up to the more difficult and more critical human issues.

Here’s a good suggestion about Change Management vs. Change Leadership – What’s the Difference? from Forbes, July 12, 2011, written by John Kotter, Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at Harvard Business School.

There is a difference that is very fundamental, and it’s very big, between what is known today as “change management” and what we have been calling for some time “change leadership.” The world basically uses change management, which is a set of processes and a set of tools and a set of mechanisms that are designed to make sure that when you do try to make some changes, A, it doesn’t get out of control, and B, the number of problems associated with it—you know, rebellion among the ranks, bleeding of cash that you can’t afford–doesn’t happen. So it is a way of making a big change and keeping it, in a sense, under control. Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently. It’s more associated, therefore, with large scale changes. Change management tends to be more associated—at least, when it works well—with smaller changes.

If you look around the world right now and just talk to people, it’s not just semantics. Everybody talks about managing change and change management, because that’s what they do. If you look at all of the tools, they’re trying to push things along, but it’s trying to minimize disruptions, i.e., keep things under control. It’s trying to make sure change is done efficiently in the sense of you don’t go over budget—another control piece. It’s done with little change management groups inside corporations, sometimes external consultants that are good at that, training in change management. It’s done with task forces that are basically given the whole goal of push this thing along, but keep it under control. It’s done with various kinds of relationships that are given names like “executive sponsors,” where the executive sponsor watches over this thing to make sure that it proceeds in an orderly way.

And change leadership is just fundamentally different—it’s an engine. It’s more about urgency. It’s more about masses of people who want to make something happen. It’s more about big visions. It’s more about empowering lots and lots of people. Change leadership has the potential to get things a little bit out of control. You don’t have the same degree of making sure that everything happens in a way you want at a time you want when you have the 1,000 horsepower engine. What you want to do, of course, is have a highly skilled driver and a heck of a car, which will make sure your risks are minimum. But it is fundamentally different.

The world, as we all know right now, talks about, thinks about, and does change management. The world, as we all know, doesn’t do much change leadership, since change leadership is associated with the bigger leaps that we have to make, associated with windows of opportunity that are coming at us faster, staying open less time, bigger hazards and bullets coming at us faster, so you really have to make a larger leap at a faster speed. Change leadership is going to be the big challenge in the future, and the fact that almost nobody is very good at it is—well, it’s obviously a big deal.

Sounds to me like 21st Century libraries are in a “change leadership” type environment where big changes are required to regain relevance. Are you prepared for the challenge?

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One response to “21st Century Library Strategy – Change!

  1. Pingback: The Round-Up « bringyournoise

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