21st Century Library Strategic Management


In my Strategic Planning series of posts in the fall of 2010, I stated that the Strategic Plan was essential to the survival of a 21st Century Library. That series was fairly comprehensive in addressing the Strategic Planning model that I proposed, but it did lack follow up regarding the HOW. Once you make your 21st Century Library Strategic Plan, then what? Implementation is also very important, because as Morris Chang stated:

Related to my recent Leadership posts, management is equally as important in accomplishing the 21st Century library’s Goals and Objectives. Where leaders provide the vision and inspiration, managers provide the means and capability. Generally, organizations consist of leadership and management positions. Always leaders are directly responsible for the success of the organization, most often managers are not. Possibly a military analogy will best explain this concept.

In the military there are commanders and there are staff officers. Commanders are legally responsible for the unit they command and the individuals assigned to that unit. Commanders have authority to promote, and award medals and incentives, as well as impose non-judicial punishment on those who violate regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Commanders or responsible to accomplish the mission given to them by their superior commanders, whether that mission is in combat or peace time. Use the “charge and take that hill” image if it helps explain the responsibility of a commander.

Staff officers are the assistants to the commander. They are assigned primarily in the areas of personnel, intelligence, operations and logistics. These broad areas of support are charged with the responsibility to support the commander in accomplishing the unit’s mission. These support staff acquire the means and resources and make them available to the commander and his unit, as well as to his subordinate commanders and units to also accomplish their missions. In that way, when the commander is ordered to “charge and take the hill”, he has the means and capability to succeed.

In the same way, libraries are organized with leaders and staff positions. An analogy can be made between commanders and library directors, between subordinate commanders and branch managers, and between staff positions and reference, technical services, circulation, trainers, etc. Every library is different in terms of the number of staff and types of positions in its organization, but every library is the same in terms of those who establish the mission, goals and objectives, and those who support them by providing the means and capability to accomplish the mission.

This is where “strategic management” comes in.

Strategic management is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers [library managers] on behalf of owners [directors, boards and jurisdictions], involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of firms [libraries] in their external environments. It entails specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.

Strategic management is a level of managerial activity under setting goals and over Tactics. … In the field of business administration it is useful to talk about “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment or “strategic consistency.” According to Arieu (2007), “there is strategic consistency when the actions of an organization are consistent with the expectations of management, and these in turn are with the market and the context.” [Wikipedia]

Where many libraries are out of step with reality today is in understanding the “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment, therefore that have no “strategic consistency.” Many library jurisdictions, boards, directors, and staff still believe that it is business as usual. They have missed the fact that both the external and internal environment have changed – dramatically! Their missions, goals and objectives, and actions are NOT “consistent with the … market and the context.”

“There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing the wrong thing.” is often attributed to Peter Drucker, But regardless, the concept is fundamental to the principals that drive a strategic plan, a strategic vision, and strategic management of a 21st Century Library.

The 21st Century Library is efficient at doing the right thing – providing the information needs of its 21st Century customers. It accomplishes this through strategic management of its goals and objectives, and providing the means and capability to succeed.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “21st Century Library Strategic Management

  1. Pingback: Week 6 – Organisational Culture | nicolaroantreeis40370

  2. SAM

    i am looking for strategic mangagement principles

  3. Pingback: Strategic planning is like worrying | A Mirror to Management

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