Monthly Archives: February 2012

The High Performing Library

The majority of libraries are not excellent libraries in terms of being able to exceed all standards, all employees having a positive attitude, providing excellent services, being customer focused, being an integral part of the community, and achieving their full potential. Despite the many reasons why this situation exists, the goal of virtually every library is to be the best possible library that they can be. The problem becomes how to achieve excellence from your current library situation by first recognizing where you are as an organization, and then deciding what type of organization you want to be.

The High Performance Programming (HPP) model was created by Linda Nelson and Frank Burns (Organization Transformation, 1983) and offers a perspective to assess what kind of organization you are – what kind of library organization you are:
• Reactive
• Responsive
• Proactive, or
• High Performing.

The High Performance Programming model illustrates a way of thinking about the process and strategies that can assist in transforming an organization into a high performing one. The structure of the model provides a nested framework for diagnosing current levels of performance, as well as for understanding the potential for performance at the highest levels. The term “programming” is used to emphasize the fact that an organization’s present performance level is a function of past implicit and explicit operating actions.

In the same manner, future performance will be determined by how the organization’s culture is being shaped now. This critical issue is the key to unlocking the performance potential of an organization. Leadership is the key to shaping the organization’s culture.

This graphic representation shows three frames of reference that make up the body of the HPP model, plus the REACTIVE frame of reference.

Each of these four states represents a distinct operating frame of reference. With the exception of the REACTIVE frame, these frames are nested one inside the next to reflect a basic concept of the model that each larger frame builds upon and provides an enhanced cultural context for the frame(s) within it. The PROACTIVE frame is an extension of and enhancement of the RESPONSIVE frame, and so on.

Frames of Reference: The concept of frames of reference, as applied here, is a useful way of examining the difference between organizational change efforts that merely re-sort and re-label the organization’s elements and functions, from change efforts that truly result in a new and transformed organization. Actual improved performance will result only if there is also a corresponding change in the frame of reference of the people in the organization beginning with the leader. Change in today’s environment is no longer a choice, it is a requirement. Its direction may take different forms.

An organization facing increasing complexity and change, such as the 21st Century Library, will either evolve toward a more connected and integrated form or drift into an increasingly fragmented condition. The fragmented condition is termed REACTIVE because it is drifting toward a fragmented survivalist condition. Organizations desiring to evolve toward a high performing condition can follow the High Performance Programming model which provides new ways for leaders to think coherently about how they can influence the transformation to excellence.

The REACTIVE Library:
The REACTIVE state is not the state where most organizations have their beginning. But, it is the state where many organizations find themselves stagnating and struggling for survival. In these organizations members do not; share a common purpose, have a sense of accomplishment, feel as though the leadership really cares, share a value system, or demonstrate the characteristics of excellence. The eleven dimensions shown in Figure 2 can be used to diagnose the culture of REACTIVE organizations. The air of “covering your rear” and “putting out fires” pervades the atmosphere in REACTIVE libraries. Leadership assumes the role of law enforcement, compliance with policies and procedures, and sheer survival are the motivators for most people. The lack of shared purpose has a telling effect on the structure of the library. The structure, despite its meat appearance on paper, is in reality a fragmented collection of separate elements, often working at cross purposes and competing over resources and territory.

Another lethal aspect of REACTIVE libraries is the almost total lack of caring about people. Subordinates have an unwillingness to tell their leader bad news. The leader rarely praises people for good work because “that’s what they get paid for.” People become insensitive in order to survive and “shut down” in these painful environments. Leaders also contribute to the perpetuation of this type environment by becoming blind to individuals and focused only on the short term perceived success of “kicking butt.”

To move the organization out of a REACTIVE frame of reference into a RESPONSIVE one requires a carefully balanced approach that entails both patience and leadership. Change must occur in the frame of reference of the members and the organization concurrently. Positive leadership to clarify goals, values and the worth of the individual must be implemented in a way that builds mutual trust. This HPP model proposes that leaders must begin by re-focusing the organization on clearly defined goals, developing action plans for accomplishing tasks, solving problems, building teams and using the “situational leadership” model developed by Hersey and Blanchard (Management of Organizational Behavior , 1986).

A successful transformation from REACTIVE to RESPONSIVE type library will result in the changes depicted in the Model. Members are focused on producing results in the present through planned activities to achieve near term, clearly defined organizational goals. The leader is a coach and mentor that motivates group members by meaningful participation, rewarding high performance and incentives based on merit.

The PROACTIVE Library:
The PROACTIVE frame of reference requires looking to the future and seizing the initiative. It is a frame of reference from which leaders see the future as a choice to be made rather than as a situation to be endured. It is a view of the future as something to be chosen, not something waiting to happen. The critical factor in moving beyond the RESPONSIVE frame of reference is for the library to have a well established value system. The vision of the future must be one that is widely shared by library members, congruent with their value system, and an attractive and compelling force for them. For example; President John F. Kennedy proposed his vision of a man on the moon by the end of the 60s decade for America. Neil Armstrong did just that in July of 1969.

The vision of the future needs to communicate a choice that places high value on people – caring. People are simply not willing to put forth personal effort beyond being RESPONSIVE unless they feel the library they work for is their library that values them personally and professionally. The future vision must reflect a commitment to human values from which people derive a deep sense of personal meaning and satisfaction. High purpose, to be achieved, must be based on high order values. Thus, an enormous amount of energy that might otherwise be tied up developing, perpetuating and enforcing official rules is released to work on attaining the desired future state.

Achieving a PROACTIVE culture in your library requires “transformational” leadership that interacts with followers at the values level, as opposed to merely activating them at the material level. The transformational leader relates to the whole person of their followers by finding ways of developing their potentials and satisfying their higher needs. Genuine transformational leadership demands a resolute commitment to fundamental ethics and integrity, demonstrated “through congruent behavior. The role of leadership in PROACTIVE libraries is to keep the members purposed and well-tuned. The results of these leadership efforts are in the diagram.

The more progressive perspective afforded by the PROACTIVE frame of reference is still insufficient to generate the level of performance observed in HIGH PERFORMING organizations. The phenomenon of library excellence is characterized by a high level of energy that unleashes human spirit and results in a marked improvement in productivity. The leaders of HIGH PERFORMING libraries have found ways of managing the flow of energy patterns and the human spirit these energy patterns release, as well as attend to those indicators with dedication that equals or often exceeds their dedication to the more visible performance results.

The HIGH PERFORMING library’s choices about strategy are made in the context of an underlying philosophy and “folk lore” that gives meaning to the library’s vision. The task of leadership becomes one of strategically navigating the library along a course established by the vision and the long range plans. Likewise, the performance management system required for a PROACTIVE library finds extra meaning in a HIGH PERFORMING library because it includes designing the plans for the library’s evolution.

Another key feature of the HIGH PERFORMING frame of reference is the emphasis on developing Metasystems as well as formal systems. Metasystems are groups, teams, or pockets of excellence within the larger organization to shape the cultural milieu throughout the library’s formal structure. Metasystems already exist in all libraries. Sometimes called the “good old boys” these informal structures provide pockets where leadership can begin to influence the desired value systems and spotlight the small successes. These can be used as think tanks for new ideas, for communicating (in both directions) with the organization informally, and for testing trends and moods of the organization. These informal leaders carry valuable influence which cannot be discounted or overlooked.

The kind of leadership required to achieve and sustain a HIGH PERFORMING library is nothing less than the excellent leadership described in literature. Excellent leaders also see their library as a contributing factor in the significant contributions to their community. In HIGH PERFORMING libraries the focus is on achieving high standards of excellence through identifying new potentials, seeking out new avenues of opportunity, and activating the human spirit. Leaders must have a frame of reference that extends beyond simply identifying results to be achieved. They must be able to see and feel the culture and spirit of the HIGH PERFORMING library through its members. Leaders operating in this state of flow are able to sustain for themselves (and communicate to their followers) an appreciation of the rich legacies, proud traditions and positive legends that are the valued roots of the HIGH PERFORMING library’s past.

The perspective of leaders operating in the HIGH PERFORMING frame of reference includes the importance of the synergistic effects of the library culture. As well as developing strongly cohesive teams and integrated sections, HIGH PERFORMING leaders look for ways of consciously strengthening their library by building a strong culture. They understand the uses of ceremony and ritual in creating and perpetuating the positive legends and proud traditions that give each member of the library a strong, proud heritage to maintain and reinforce. This attentiveness to the culture of the organization enables the leader to act in ways that support individual pursuit of excellence and fulfillment within the purposes and goals of the library.

Not only do leaders in HIGH PERFORMING libraries have the unique ability to think far into the future and keep their library aligned around a great vision, they have the parallel ability and courage to turn their people lose to pursue it. These leaders lead through their ability and willingness to empower their followers; to push power down into the hands of people so that they have the energy and freedom to seek adventure, creativity and innovation. Most importantly, they lead by virtue of caring deeply for their followers, which produces the mutual bond of strong emotional commitment and reciprocal loyalty that are the well-springs of excellence.

Summary: The High Performance Programming model provides a coherent framework for understanding the different levels of functional effectiveness that libraries can attain and the cultural frames of reference associated with each level. At the REACTIVE level, libraries are caught in frantic rounds of activity as their leaders think mainly of survival, enforcement of old rules and policies, and the protection of the old system. At the RESPONSIVE level, libraries handle their requirements competently as their leaders think mainly about building cohesive teams and solving problems as they arise. At the PROACTIVE level, libraries are oriented on achieving long term outcomes and their leaders think mainly about developing aligned and well-tuned people systems that are focused on a positive and purposeful future. At the HIGH PERFORMING level, libraries are flowing with excitement and spirit as their leaders think mainly about the further empowerment of their people so that together they can make even more significant contributions to the larger communities they ultimately serve.

A central concept in this model is that the three higher states of effectiveness are nested. That is, a PROACTIVE library must continue to be RESPONSIVE as well, and a HIGH PERFORMING library must also be PROACTIVE and RESPONSIVE. The frames of reference associated with each of these states are similarly nested. Leaders must not become so fixated on achieving a future state that they neglect to attend to the needs of the present, nor should they unleash their people completely without first making certain they are thoroughly aligned with the library mission and vision.

This High Performance Programming model brings into focus a coherent way to accomplish excellence within your library. As always, whether you make it happen depends on your willingness to put forth the necessary effort and dedication to exercise your leadership responsibilities excellently.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture!

I recently reacquainted myself with Google books Ngram Viewer – a seriously fascinating tool for research. Essentially, it allows users to compare terminology used in literature and identify trends of change over time. In their default example it compares Atlantis with El Dorado to note how the frequency of use of the two terms changed over time.

I wanted to compare some librarianship terms to see the frequency of their use in American literature over time, beginning in 1900 through 2008 (the most current literature in the database). “Librarianship – local library – library technology – 21st century” were the terms I first compared and obtained the results shown in the first graph below. It shows that use of the term “librarianship” (blue) peaked in the early 1980s and has declined since. Use of the term “21st century” (yellow) has been on a steady and accelerating increase since the 1980s.

In the second search (results below) I replaced “21st century” with “21st century library” (again yellow). The comparison reveals that “21st century library” is virtually non-existent in the literature. Not surprising.

The other interesting result is that “library technology” (green) peaked slightly in the mid-1970s and then was flat until an even smaller bump in about 2003, after which it flattened out again.

What is particularly fascinating are the “librarianship” (blue) peak in the literature in the mid-1970s and then again in the early 1980s before it began a jerky but steady decline, except for the slight bump in what appears to be 2003, and the steady increase in the rise of use of “local library” (red) in literature, until its steady decline after 2000. During a time when the focus should have been more on the local library, why would the use of the term in literature decline?

I hope I’m not the only one who is asking “What’s wrong with this picture?” Why in a time when libraries were on the cusp of such significant change – the Internet – was there a decline in discussion in the literature? Maybe some of you who have been in the profession since then can explain the drastic peak in the early 1980s, and the equally drastic decline in the discussion after that time.

I became introduced to the profession in the mid-1990s when the Internet was being introduced, yet the literature shows at that time the lowest point in use of “librarianship” (blue) since the 1950s. Why? The introduction of the Internet was a HUGE deal in library school in the mid-1990s. Why doesn’t use of the terms “librarianship” or “library technology” reflect that situation?

And again, why has the use of all these library related terms declined since 2000? At a time when there should have been intense focus on the impending changes and impacts, why was there a dearth of literature about the profession?

In my opinion, library leaders shrink from the unfamiliar. SLIS faculty – where ideas and innovation should reign – don’t know enough about external influences to understand their impact on librarianship. Therefore, they stop discussing it. No, that’s not quite accurate, they stop writing about it. As I recall there were only a couple of individuals in the mid-1990s who were looked to as ‘futurists’ in the profession. Every profession needs futurists – all the time.

One of the things I noticed at my first ALA conference in Chicago in 1995 was a LOT of discussion, and the years after were more discussion about the same topics. The last ALA conference I attended in D.C. in 2007 was a repeat of the same discussions on most of the same topics.

Librarians talk a lot, but don’t accomplish much toward evolving the profession. Can anyone explain why that is? Lack of leadership maybe?


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Being “The Library” Again

What would it take for “the library” to regain its former stature? To be recognized as the primary institution for free and equitable access to information? To be the place where people turn first to get answers to everyday questions, as well as find life altering experiences? Is that even possible, or desirable?

A couple of recent blog posts seem to suggest that it is – both – possible and desirable. Anthony Molaro’s post of February 10, “Libraries Gave Up Control” asks a lot of pointed questions about why the profession is in the shape it’s in today, and whether librarians can overcome the self-made situation to regain control of the profession. Agnostic, Maybe followed that post with his own views on February 16, Fight the Future where he sees the issue as two fold – “how much control over content, tools, and services do we have and is there a will to reclaim it?” Their perspective is focused more on the issues, but I suggest the solution is LEADERSHIP.

My thoughts lean toward a perception that there is not an abundance of talented leaders in the profession today to turn the situation around, because where are the librarians know how to do any of the great and wonderful things both Andy and Anthony suggest may be solutions? What library school program is training new librarians to recognize 21st Century factors that are impacting librarianship, let alone apply solutions? Where does a librarian learn to create a new, more functional ILS? Where does one learn the fundamentals of “expanding rights over library content”? Where is the entrepreneurial spirit? Even if we “hope” there is a will to reclaim control, who is going to lead that movement? Where are the leaders?

Kansas City Public Library

I believe librarianship is faced with a new paradigm that places the emphasis on librarian leaders dealing with the local situation to position their library to survive, and yet that requires exceptional visionary leadership – not a common trait among the profession. As I stated in “The Revolutionary Library“, “Evidence has convinced me that the 21st Century Library Paradigm is that libraries will be defined by those librarians running them and their local community more than by the profession, or SLIS, or any librarian associations’ standards.”

The problem becomes one of vision. The characteristics I stated above; vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership are all essential to making the local library “The Library” again – in whatever form it needs to be in 21st Century society.


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Digital Natives Want ‘More’ From Their Public Libraries

A colleague recently put me onto a study by the Idaho Commission for Libraries that collected feedback on “Perceptions of Idaho’s Digital Natives on Public Libraries“. It is a very comprehensive, eye-opening, and highly useful study from which I believe all public library leaders can benefit.

Since Digital Natives comprise the next big challenge in library customers, it is highly useful to know their opinions of their community library. This study provides that – and more. One puzzling finding is that focus group respondents reported that that believe that “Information on the Internet is not always trustworthy.” and they also believe that “Overall, information obtained through books and libraries is much more trustworthy than information found online.” Yet, they admit that “The Internet is typically the starting point when a search for information is begun.”

What would account for this contradiction? Well, “Convenience is most important when digital natives look for information.” and “Libraries are mostly for young children and older adults, but not for those that fall into the age range that encompasses digital natives.” because “Libraries are perceived to be an old-fashioned, cumbersome way to get information.”

So, what could libraries do to make themselves more attractive to Digital Natives? “Understanding how libraries should be used is important, and would help make the library less intimidating.” Also, “Libraries should elicit opinions and ideas from younger digital natives when creating programs and services targeted for this group.” Libraries could also create “Library activities that provide opportunities for social interaction [that] are very appealing to younger digital natives.” And to attract older digital natives, libraries could create the “Hands-on experience [that] is perceived to be the most valuable source in older digital natives’ learning experiences.” – such as a technology petting zoo.

Another important element is “The fact that older digital natives believe that libraries should act as a hub for community information is reflected in their choices for potential library services and resources.”

10) Web-based resources offered by public libraries should include reference tools.
The preferred resources chosen by the older digital natives were all related to accessing information online. This is despite the perception that public libraries would not be able to afford to offer resources equal to what a university provides online to its students. Still, it is an indicator of the importance that digital natives place on convenient access to reliable information.

This is a very valuable and comprehensive study presented for Idaho library community application, but which – IMHO – has nearly universal application to every library interested in providing services to their Digital Native customers.

How well do you know your Digital Native customers? What services/programs do you have aimed at fulfilling their needs?


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Millennials & the NEW American Dream

Born between 1981 and 2000, also known as “The 9/11 Generation” and possibly “Echo Boomers”, this generation is now in the workforce, and the second half of the generation is entering college.

This generation is said to be a sharp departure from Generation X. I believe that, and what’s more frightening, they believe government owes them something – $$$$$

FOX & Friends News interviewed a Florida college professor on the results of a class project about – The American Dream. As noted, the results are jaw dropping!

How will this generation of library customers affect the future of librarians, and libraries?

Please ignore the political overtones of this news piece, because politics is not my purpose or point in posting this. It’s about the impact in libraries from this generation of library customers.


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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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