Monday, September 18, 2017

Quality is not a quick fix

Freeston, Kenneth. “Quality is not a quick fix.” Emergency Librarian Volume 22 (May/June 1995), pp. 14-19.

Remember when problem solving was the rage in educational journals and workshops? We all thought that if we could just teach ourselves and kids how to solve problems, our schools and our world would be better places. We produced students and teachers who could generate a multitude of solutions. Regrettably, many of us forgot the importance of problem finding, the critical first step to the problem-solving process.

The quality movement is gaining popularity as a solution. Signals of the pursuit of quality now appear in journals, popular media and a smattering of national organizations ready to train people in the latest solution. While there is mounting evidence that only quality-oriented organizations can survive in the future, unless we go about our business of change in dramatically different fashion from our past attempts, the quality movement in schools will be doomed to the same familiar failings of other annual trends and quick fixes. Well-meaning educators will adopt quality as a solution before spending time articulating the problems it addresses.

Organizational leaders throughout the world are achieving significantly improved results by applying the quality sciences to their organizations. Each leader would tell us that this process is, simply put, hard work. Once understood, the work of Deming, Jurand, Crosby, Glassner and a host of other experts substantially improves organizational culture and outcomes. Often, when these quality science tenets are applied to the educational setting, they are mistakenly seen as quick-fix solutions by superintendents, school boards, teachers and parents, and are not recognized as the core element necessary to restructure our schools.

A commonly used phrase applies here: people who know where they are going are more likely to get there. When going in the direction of quality, educators need to anticipate the formidable obstacles that block the way. This process reveals as much about the deep resistance to change that is present in schools as it does about school improvement. Obstacles block desired paths: they are not reasons to stop movement. Educators who spend the time finding the problems, the obstacles, will have a better understanding of how to achieve quality improvement.

The teacher-librarian is in a unique position to assist with an understanding of the obstacles outside the school system. For too long, schools have not stayed current with changes in the outside world. Teacher-librarians are aware of the increasing pace of change – the amount and type of information available. It is here that the teacher-librarian should assume a leadership role, assisting colleagues in their search for appropriate information, to gain an understanding of the hurdles to quality education.

The word Quality itself
The first hurdle is often the term quality itself, which is seen by many as a platitude, a hollow phrase with no substance or meaning. Regarded as laudable, quality is widely perceived as being unobtainable, as are truth, beauty and justice. The word is used freely by advertisers for everything from sophisticated electronics to second-rate products. As a result, the term has no meaning to people who hear it applied to management theory for the first time.

When applied to organizations, quality is quite difficult to define. Those who understand and apply quality know that slogans and superficiality have no place in a quality setting. To gain educator’s acceptance, we have to move beyond the notion that quality is undefinable and that “we know it when we see it.” The essence of quality is substance. A consensus is now emerging on the definition of quality as a clear system continuous improvement that meets customer needs. Only after training and application do these terms carry their intended meaning.

After displaying an initial interest in quality, many people quickly give up trying to learn more about it once they confront the bulky and difficult-to-understand language – emanating from management writers – that currently describes the quality sciences. Prematurely, many decide that the idea cannot be applied to schools.

Although achieving quality is very hard work, maintaining it is even harder. Workers, whether in schools or corporations, work harder and smarter when the work meets their needs. 
Corporate world as the model
Skeptical of a school improvement model that comes from faltering American corporate structures, educators are reluctant to apply quality to schools. Many of us do not look at corporate life in America as an example of success, either in terms of results or of ethics. On closer examination, however, we find that it is that failing of corporate culture that the theories of W. Edwards Deming and others address (Walton, 1986).

Joel Barker has popularized the work of Thomas Kuhn regarding the importance of paradigms in the way we think about change
(Barker, 1989). One of the reasons so many American corporations fail is that they do not recognize that marketplace paradigms have changed (Dobyns, 1992).A generation ago, the company that won was the company that made the most product; now the winning company makes the best product. In conventional marketplaces, the seller retained power over product design and manufacturing. In actuality, the buyer always had the power, and therein lies the paradigm shift. The buyer now expresses that power through the desire to purchase quality. Companies that have understood the paradigm of customer satisfaction – whether a low-technology company such as Lands End or a high-technology company such as Motorola – have achieved remarkable success.

What is the American response to foreign companies that embrace quality first? We bash them. We blame them. We think they are the cause of economic downturns.

Through the direct leadership of W. Edwards Deming in the 1950s, Japanese governmental and corporate leaders adopted the notion of quality and propelled themselves into a leadership position in the world marketplace. At the same time, American corporate leaders rejected Deming’s thinking and concentrated on issues that were tangential to quality. In a classic example of wrong-headed thinking, some American corporate leaders now blame Japan for the failing American corporate structures. This kind of blaming is wrong-headed because limiting the import of quality products will not help the American corporate structure, the economy, or the consumers. Even tax cuts, as psychiatrist William Glasser points out, are not the solution
(Glasser, 1991). Given the choice, American consumers will spend their newfound dollars on quality products, thus deepening recessionary trends for countries that do not make the best.

Deming’s ideas work, but they encounter resistance when applied to schools. Some of that resistance resides in the language used by him and other management theorists to explain quality; some of it comes from perceived weakness in the American corporate structure. Much of the resistance, however, resides in two areas: leadership and change.

Leadership
Leaders of quality organizations must live and breathe the essence of quality. In every action they take, every decision they make, they are role models for the rest of the organization. Although a quality school is not a top-down setting, such a school will not come into being unless the school leader is the champion of quality. In my view, two of Deming’s 14 points are critically important to leaders: constancy of purpose and self-evaluation.

Deming asserts that 94 percent of the problems that exist within an organization are within management’s power to solve. Yet those who occupy leadership positions in our schools are perhaps the single greatest obstacle to implementing a quality approach to the teaching and learning process. School leaders are so overwhelmed by financial, political and statutory constraints on their actions that they perceive themselves as powerless to effect real change in schools.

Over the past decade, schools across the country developed mission statements. Generally in narrative forms and written by broad-based committees, these statements tend to be characterized as a rational link of platitudes. Once written, these well-intentioned efforts often play no continuing roles in schools. Specifically, school and instructional practices remain unexamined for consistency with the mission. In a quality school, constancy of purpose is the critical factor. Whether in Sitka, Alaska; Johnson City, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; or LaJoya, Texas, schools have a constancy of purpose. The leader articulates that purpose endlessly to all internal and external customers.

Early systems of management theory that were based on inspection of workers failed because the inspection model assumed that fear would motivate the workers to higher levels of productivity. Someone was watching, rating and ranking. In a quality school, leaders drive out the fear by eliminating inspection for staff and program evaluation. Collecting information is important to making better decisions, but that information cannot be gathered usefully in a culture characterized by fear and mistrust. To optimize the school’s mission, every aspect of its work should be critically self-evaluated. In schools, the obstacles to a self-evaluation process are considerable, given the public’s concern over student performance and the widespread political pressure for school improvement.

These changes hold interesting consequences for recent initiatives in our profession, such as school-based management. Such efforts at collaborative decision making in schools is good, but take alone, they are short-range, quick fixes without a leadership commitment to constancy of purpose and self-evaluation.

Just another change
We are victims of our own scattered and disjointed attempts to change. We read an article, attend a workshop, or hire a consultant and get excited because we mistakenly think we have found the answer. In reality, all we have found is a short-term solution, one that lasts only until the next workshop. Unless schools shatter the norms that work against quality, we will continue to use impulse reactions to ill-defined problems.

Schools across the country are staffed with educators who we think do not need to change. By conventional measures, their students perform well. Our past successes guarantee us nothing, however, when change occurs
(Baker, 1989). Remember that the Swiss are the ones who invented the quartz watch, but because it did not meet their definition of a watch, they gave the patent away to Texas Instruments and Seiko. It is because of this resistance to change that the teacher-librarian must impress upon the staff how thoroughly the world of information has been altered over the last decade. Technology and communication have experienced the most radical changes, and because of this, instruction must change too.

Judy-Arin Krupp and other experts on adult development provide valuable insight into the effects adult development stages have on school culture
(Krupp, 1981). Schools that expanded during the growth-oriented era of the 1960s now find themselves with a majority, in some places as high as 75 percent, of teachers over the age of 50. Adult development theorists have a lot to say about how these older professionals approach change: they wait it out. Annually, these teachers experience the unbridled enthusiasm of younger teachers and new administrators who attempt to win support for the latest trend. How often have we seen them greet new ideas with a mellow, seasoned response of “this too will past”. Look at back volumes of educational journals, and you will discover that it is the rhetoric that we frequently associate with change that has caused the skepticism of our senior and experienced faculties.

One year at a time
The conventional planning process for schools have always been limited to a year-to-year basis. Schools everywhere are funded on annual budgets and, therefore, have to justify the existence of programs and changes. State legislatures convene annually and change the bureaucratic requirements that reign over local school systems. Boards of education require annual reports and other rituals based on a year-to-year approach to planning. Even something as pedestrian as a teacher’s planning book contains only enough space for one year.

Partly because of this orientation and a 10-month year, time passes too quickly for teachers. Shortly after the frantic rush of concluding one school year, we begin the frantic rush of preparing for another. The symbolism of this short-range planning is obvious; its effects are disastrous. This pattern of thinking leads well-intentioned people to quick fixes. We mistakenly seek closure as a goal. Remediation and special education practices perpetuate this idea in their emphasis on short-range instructional planning. As quality-oriented educators, we can begin to make improvements in our schools when we drop year-to-year pattern of thinking about our problems.

Think of a goal or want that you achieved recently. What was your immediate reaction? For most people, a void or emptiness follows the short-lived satisfaction. New needs, wants and goals surface. It is this flow of goal/achievement/new goal that characterizes continuous improvement, a long-range approach to planning that is a core concept of quality.

Although similar to elements of strategic planning and other problem-solving models, continuous improvement is a cycle of planning, doing, studying and planning again. The process never stops. It begins with a valid statement of wants that is then filtered through beliefs and profound knowledge before the action planning begins. This plan-do-study approach characterizes the difference between continuous improvement and a blitz of quick fixes.

I know that already
Deming asserts that we need to base decisions on profound knowledge. When first applied to schools, this is interpreted as gathering an understanding of existing research. The teacher-librarian should be the role model for lifelong learning, using the latest retrieval systems and instructing colleagues who are less familiar in their use. The research process itself is modeled by the teacher-librarian, utilizing an information skills structure such as the “Big Six Skills” by Eisenberg and Berkowitz.

Veteran teachers have a wealth of experience that is often overlooked when constructing a knowledge base. Schools need to look inside, as well as outside, when gathering knowledge. Data searches are valuable; but, when consulted and engaged, senior educators can also be excellent resources for the change process.

Collecting the right information and using it to plan and evaluate improvement is essential. Expertise in this area often exists, untapped, in a school’s community. In Newtown, Connecticut, community advisory groups are a regular part of the improvement process. When bringing its mathematics curriculum in line with NCTM standards, the school district contacted area corporations and asked them to nominate to an advisory group people whose jobs required a high degree of mathematical competence. Experts emerged in fields ranging from laser technology to statistics. Once convened, the advisory group validated the need to alter mathematics instruction and assisted the district in making the changes.

“I know that already” is the death knell for change in a school. With information doubling every two to three years
(Roberts & Hay. 1989), we can’t possibly “know that already” very often or for much longer. Once we develop experience in basing knowledge and shared values (constancy of purpose), we will move schools forward.

By continuing to model the gathering, synthesizing and evaluation of information from a variety of sources, teacher-librarians will find themselves key players in the restructuring process.

Students don’t value school
In the fashion of Lake Wobegon, many schools throughout the country meet traditional expectations well. However, good enough is no longer good enough. In quality schools, the entire bell-shaped curve shifts to the right, with learners at all levels of performance improving their achievement through the establishment of higher standards once quality is embraced.

Phil Schlechty, president of the Kentucky-based Center for Educational Leadership in School Reform, sends a wake-up call to senior faculties and educational leaders throughout the country when he observes that high schools are places where young people come to watch older people work
(Schlechty, 1989). Students, whom Schlechty refers to as knowledge workers, take on a different posture in quality schools. The problem becomes defined as: how do we convince students that learning adds quality to their lives?

To move our students toward a commitment to lifelong learning, it is essential to provide them with the appropriate information skills. The success that students experience in learning will provide the motivation to continue (achievement motivation).

Following the research done by psychiatrist William Glasser in American high schools
(Glasser, 1990), the faculty and students of the Newtown, Connecticut, high school surveyed its student body on issues of quality (Freeston, 1992a). Alarmingly, students in Newtown are similar to students in Glasser’s research. Like students everywhere, they know when they produce quality work. Ask them, and they’ll tell you they don’t do it very often, and when they do, it’s on the field or in the orchestra (Table 1). We have not been effective at teaching students that learning adds quality to their lives.

Table 1: Student survey results
Question Student response
(mean score)
 
How would you characterize the level of effort you normally expend in your class? 6
What level of effort are you capable of maintaining in your class over a marking period? 8
How many students do you know are doing their best possible work most of the time? 4
Looking at other students, how hard do you think most of them are working? 5
In what activity or class is your best effort demonstrated in the present school year? Over 50% cited music/athletics 

*scale 0 to 10; 0 is low, 10 is high

Deming asserts that we have to drive the fear out of organizations. One way of driving out fear is to reduce or eliminate inspection-driven, coercive models of evaluation for students and staff, and replace them with the power and validity of self-evaluation.

Recent assessment developments, such as the New Standards Project, will provide more comprehensive measures of student accomplishment, because they call for the student to self-evaluate. Schools that embrace continuous improvement collect information and regularly use it to make better decisions. There is an openness to data, not a fear of it. There is hunger for ever-changing techniques based on new information. Information is not feared, hidden, or manipulated.

It’s not my fault
Educators everywhere in America are bombarded by complaints of diminishing student achievement. These attacks have led many of us to respond in a defensive way by pointing to the changed nature of the learner. The changed nature of the family and the deplorable conditions children live (Table 2) do indeed shatter the American myth of the Norman Rockwell family.


TABLE 2 CHILDREN IN AMERICA
TABLE 2 CHILDREN IN AMERICA
Every 26 seconds a child runs away from home.
Every 13 seconds a child is reported neglected or abused.
About every minute an American teenager has a baby.
Every 9 minutes one of our children is arrested for a drug offense.
Every 40 minutes one of our children is arrested for drunken driving.
Every 3 hours a child is murdered.
Every 53 minutes one of our children dies from poverty.

Growing numbers of schools now understand what changes are necessary to restructure. These changes have little or nothing to do with the student or with family or personal problems. We have to see these deplorable social conditions as context, not product. Unless we are truly going to restructure, when we say all children will learn, we probably should add a footnote: unless you happen to come from a broken home. We need to recognize the changed nature of the student and forcibly change the way we teach (Freeston, 1992b). In how many schools do we together openly debate a collective belief system? In how many schools do we publicly commit to the achievement of high-risk, high-stakes standards for all students? In how many schools do we acknowledge that all people, teachers, students and parents choose behavior to meet their basic needs? In how many schools do we meet or exceed those basic needs as the heart of our mission?

A Question of culture?
Introductory economics classes traditionally examine a nation’s or region’s natural resources as a predictor of economic success. In truth, countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland are startling examples of countries with few natural resources that, nevertheless, enjoy enormous worldwide economic success
(Dobyns, 1992). That is a paradigm shift, fueled by a focus on quality, which, ironically, is an American perspective.

Popular media commentaries suggest that Japanese workers and American workers come from radically different cultures. These cultural differences, it is often argued, explain the difference in performance between the Japanese and their American counterparts. Although clearly there are cultural differences between America and Japan – as there are between most countries in the world – if we continue to see culture as the reason for differential achievement, we miss the point of the quality sciences. Quality is cross-cultural. The greatest irony in this debate is that we taught the Japanese to produce quality and now we buy it.

Certainly cultural issues bear on motivation. In our culture and many others, internal motivation is a well-documented catalyst for action. Yet, schools still treat people as though external motivation is an effective means of eliciting desired outcomes. Glasser has convinced many leaders that the reason Deming’s 14 points work is that they are actually rooted in what psychologists call “control theory”. Oversimplified, control theory holds that, as individuals, we seek to satisfy wants come from our desire to meet basic human needs as Glasser and others define them. In “stimulus theory,” by contrast, the stimulus sets the standard and is an external focus for change. People and organizations change best when they are internally motivated to do so. Leaders who continue to behave as though stimulus response theory were effective face insurmountable obstacles to quality. They just can’t get there.

Summary
Inherent in all these obstacles is the issue of attitude change and the difficulties it poses for school improvement. There is a fundamental resistance to the term customer, common in business, as it applies to schools. Teachers do not readily perceive themselves as suppliers of a service (teaching) or a product (learning) to a customer base.

The customer orientation, although different in schools from business, holds that we do what we do in schools in order to meet someone’s needs. Why else would we teach, if it were not to fill a need, individual or societal? The debate about whether schools have internal or external customers is specious, because we have too many customers. To start the process, pick one. Collect information to determine the needs, collect more information to see if the needs are being met, then identify the areas of improvement to be undertaken. Start.

The ramification this holds for teacher-librarians is great. The change that has occurred from being a keeper of materials toward being a facilitator in a learning laboratory is mammoth. An analysis of the environment will change the way we look at students. They are becoming much more active and involved customers of information. Teacher-librarians must consider how students develop strategies to acquire information; extract appropriate information; use the best information; integrate that information into a presentable form; and evaluate the final product. Teacher-librarians must consider the role technology will play in changing the library resource center. With the appearance of computer local area networks (LANS), it is clear that information may be shared and is not necessarily available only in the library resource center.

We must be prepared to help students become knowledge navigators in a sea of information. The library resource center should be perceived as the information center of the school – the whole school community should be using this resource to cultivate successful users in an information age.

What lies behind the obstacles? Although certainly not a quick fix or panacea, quality management holds answers to questions that are at the center of the school reform debate. By establishing, together, a system of core beliefs, teachers, administrators, students and parents can ask themselves, when faced with difficult choices, “What do we believe?”, and use the answer to make better choices. Through the concept of continuous improvement, schools will less frequently be in a defensive position reacting to external criticism. Instead, educators can work together to establish and maintain a constancy of purpose and break the cultural norms of autonomy and independence that impede collaborative decision making. When educators collect information and understand the statistical importance of variance, they use knowledge and beliefs to make better decisions. Through the establishment of higher student achievement outcomes, which result from a quality orientation, performance increases are more likely for all students.

We must acknowledge the psychological reality of internal motivation and use it as an accelerant for school improvement. When a school system works together to establish a constancy of purpose, openly operates to continuously improve the teaching and learning process, collects information to make decisions and strives daily to meet or exceed the needs of its students, it achieves quality improvement.
References
Barker, J. (1989). The business of paradigms. [Videotape]. Burnsville, MN: Chart House Learning Corporation.

Crowley, J. (1994). Developing a vision: Strategic planning and the library media specialist. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Dobyns, L (1992). Quality or else. PBS Special Broadcast.

Freeston, K (1992a). Other people’s theories. Education Week, 10 (23), p. 22.

_____ (1992b). Getting started in TGM. Educational Leadership, 50 (3), 10-13.

Glasser, W. (1984). Control theory. New York: Harper and Row.

_____ (1991, Winter). The quality society: The economics of control theory. Institute for Reality Therapy Newsletter, pp. 3-6.

Hay, L. & Roberts, A. (1989). Curriculum for the millennium: Trends shaping our futures. Southport, CT: Connecticut Association for Supervision of Curriculum Development.

Krupp, J. (1981). Adult development. A manuscript available from Judy-Arin Krupp, 40 McDivitt Drive, Manchester, CT 06040.

Schlechty, P. (1990). Schools for the 21st century. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Walton, M. (1986). The Deming management method. New York: Putnam.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Recognition and Situational Leadership II

Blanchard, Kenneth; Nelson, Bob. “Recognition and Situational Leadership II.” Emergency Librarian, Mar/Apr 97, Vol. 24, Issue 4, p38. 
Situational leadership was first developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey over 25 years ago. This article emphasizes helping managers recognize employees who are at different stages of development, for their efforts and achievements. Situational leadership II advocates that the best managers provide the amount and kind of direction and support which best fits the developmental level of the employee.

Here is an overview of the four development styles that make up Situational Leadership II and the corresponding type of recognition that would be most effective at each level.

Enthusiastic Beginner (D). This is where everyone starts a new job. Already motivated, enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to do something new, this person needs little support from a manager. However, what the person does need is information about the job – what exactly is needed, how best to approach the task, what a good job looks like, etc. How to recognize: The manager can recognize the enthusiastic beginner by providing specific answers to get them back on track. These novice employees need attention, specific direction and redirection.

Disillusioned Learner (D2). This stage of a job occurs when “the honeymoon is over”. The initial excitement of the job has worn off and some aspects of the job have proven more difficult than originally anticipated. Since the employee is still learning, the difficulties are especially frustrating since they have not yet performed satisfactorily and have little to show for their effort to date. How to recognize: Because they are still learning the job, the manager needs to “catch them doing things right”. Praisings that are sincere and specific as well as time acknowledgements of progress towards the desired goal, reinforce desired performance. The best praisings are done personally, face-to-face with the employee, but written praisings are also effective. And don’t forget to redirect. Get them back on track toward the desired end result.

Capable but Cautious Contributor (D3). Having successfully complete the task only once, has not given the employee enough time to gain confidence in his or her ability. As a result, employees tend to be overly cautious. How to recognize: A manager of an employee in this stage of development needs to provide clear, specific positive recognition to the employee for the achievement of the desired performance. The best methods are often things that have little or no cost (see list).

No-cost ways to recognize employees
  • Personal thank you for doing a good job 
  • Written thanks for doing a good job 
  • Public praise at staff, department or company meeting 
  • Reference in company, industry or community publication 
  • Photo on a “Wall of Fame” 
  • Designated parking spot 
  • Time off 
  • Certificate of appreciation 
  • Special celebration or lunch 
  • Appreciation day
  • The manager needs to encourage the individual to repeat the performance and must continue to be available when needed. At the D3 level, recognition for achieving a goal or task is the best form of reinforcement.

    Self-reliant achiever (D4). At this stage of development an employee has demonstrated competence and commitment in doing the job and has essentially become self-managed on the given task. How to recognise: High performers need recognition too, or else they may come to feel taken advantaged of, that is, not valued for the contribution they consistently make to the organization. Their needs have shifted so that although they may still appreciate a sincere thank you for a job well done, they are apt to feel even more appreciated if you used a “higher order” incentive. Asking the person to train others on the job they have learned to do so well, granting them more autonomy in their job, providing a chance to select future assignments, involving them in decisions that affect their jobs or increasing their visibility in the organization are all appropriate.

    Remember too that the recognition you give a high performer serves a second purpose as well: It sends a message to others in the organization that “this is the type of performance that gets noticed around here.” It also provides an opportunity for high performers to thank others in the organization.

    “All behaviour is a function of its consequences.” Managers can harness the power of this statement by providing recognition and rewards to positively reinforce desired behaviour and performance.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Strategic planning to avoid bottlenecks in the age of the Internet

Penniman, W. David. Strategic planning to avoid bottlenecks in the age of the Internet. Computers in Libraries, Jan 99, Vol. 19, issue 1.
When the early libraries of Mesopotamia and Egypt were in their heydays, their respective staffs must have been concerned with dramatic changes in materials, the growth of sources, and the demands of users. They probably also worried about adequate support for the efforts and lack of appreciation of what they did for society. For them, these worries were undoubtedly no less bothersome than the worries and concerns of today’s librarians. They, like us, had concerns about the future. And, like us, they had no better grasp of how to accurately predict the future. (If they did, they would undoubtedly have been appalled at the sad fates of their libraries and might have given up right then and there.)

Putting planning into perspective
We might be equally dismayed if we had perfect insight into the future. We have to contend with increasing costs of materials, increasing sources of materials (many of these sources now electronic), and increasing options of (and competition for) delivery channels to our users. All of these lead to a dismaying array of demands from a planning perspective. At the university level, for example, we must plan for and maintain three kinds of libraries:
  • The library of the past, which focused on building collections and providing direct physical access to printed materials
  • The library of the present, with extraordinary added costs of inflation, automation, and for many, the preservation of decaying material
  • The library of the future that we must plan for, and that includes not only the development of new ideas, but the implementation of new prototypes for publishing, acquiring, storing, and providing access to information through new technology and new attitudes about such things as ownership and access (Billy E. Fyre, “The University Context and the Research Library,” Library Hi Tech 40 (1992): 27-370)
Building on past assumptions
At the same time that these three types of libraries are being maintained, we are seeing significant strains on the physical structures we call “libraries”. The design considerations of today are different from those yesterday ((W. David Penniman, “Tomorrow’s Library.” Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine 44, nos 3/4 (1994): 149-153). Unfortunately, the fact is that, for too many institutions, the library of the 21st century has already been built and it is too late to do any planning for the structures themselves. During the 1970s and 1980s we completed new academic libraries at the rate of almost 20 per year. We added to our renovated about half as many each year. In any given year there were about 100 academic library building projects in progress. In the 1990s the rate of completion of academic libraries has held constant while additions and renovations have doubled. To quote Library Journal, “There doesn’t seem to be financial concerns in the construction/design industries when it comes to building libraries. Academic libraries in particular seem little affected by the economic or political climate.” ((Bette-Lee Fox, et al., “Building a Brighter Tomorrow.” Library Journal (December 1992): 51)

Most organizations will have to live with those decisions that were made years or even decades ago and attempt to serve their users on the basis of those assumptions. The assumptions made in the 1970s could not have been nearly as insightful as those in the 1980s regarding technology. We were only beginning to think in terms of mainframes, dumb terminals, and centralized databases at that time.

The ‘80s reflected new technologies and more emphasis on stand-alone systems as well as new networking concepts. The design ideas of the ‘70s no longer seemed valid. More space was needed for CD-ROM or other disc-based systems, and more room was needed to pull cables through undersized cableways. Buildings only a few years old seemed ill-fitted for the tasks and services required. Now, in the late ‘90s, we have the Internet and the World Wide Web, and who could have guessed the revolution they would bring to society in general and to libraries in particular?

Years from now, the same may be said about the new structures and systems some of you are contemplating. Will your assumptions seem shortsighted and naïve? They may if you fall into the trap of planning for a specific technology or structure. Rather, plan for a specific (and more stable) mission and vision for your institution, and then use the available technology and structures of the times to fulfil these relatively stable elements.

Planning with a clear mission and vision
I believe our ability to predict the full impact of a specific technology (let alone broader technological evolution) is sorely limited, whereas our abilities to articulate a useful mission, to envision a future that enhances that mission, and to use technology now available to eliminate impediments to our mission and vision are not nearly as limited.

Think in terms of bottlenecks
We can plan for a future we wish to create and work toward that future. I believe this is true despite the fact that we cannot begin to predict the full impact of such innovations as the Internet (and may not be able to until it has become part of our history). Since we cannot wait for a historical perspective of today’s events, we need to think in terms of current impediments or bottlenecks to our mission and vision, and how to eliminate those bottlenecks. This puts us far more in control than trying to grasp at the elusive trajectory of technology.

Look, for example, at the amazing result of the lowly spinning wheel and how it eliminated bottlenecks as described by that wonderful interpreter of history in terms of connections of technology and societal change, James Burke. (See the sidebar entitled “The Spinning Wheel and Bottlenecks—A Historical Example.”)

We have to think clearly in terms of bottlenecks to a well-articulated mission and vision, and we have to think clearly in terms of partnerships and alliances to overcome such bottlenecks. We have to learn from the historical perspective offered by such marvellous individuals as James Burke and seek out those bottlenecks that stall our vision.

We have faced and continue to face five major bottlenecks, or impediments, to the vision I have suggested:

1. Lack of accessibility—We must provide information independent of where it is kept. In addition, we must provide better means of retrieving information held in our books and journals—especially our books. And, we must make our libraries accessible from anywhere.

2. Outdated materials—By the time material reaches our libraries much of it is old. The library, to be useful to decision making, must not be bypassed in the delivery of current information.

3. Higher costs—The cost of materials continues to rise for libraries, and a wider variety of sources appear every day. Om addition, price as a means of protecting intellectual property is an increasing barrier.

4. Insufficient storage capacity—The growing cost of space requires that better storage methods be found and that preservation and accessibility for future generations be considered as well. Consider the short technological half-lives of some storage media, e.g., seven-track tape and 40- and 80-column punch cards.

5. Unavailability of materials—This is distinguished from accessibility in that some necessary material may not ever be “published” due to cost, space, time, or proprietary considerations.

The Spinning Wheel and Bottlenecks—A Historical Example
An interesting example of the connection between a new technology, bottlenecks, and major societal change is found in the tale of the spinning wheel. This device, invented in China about a thousand years ago, ultimately uncorked the bottleneck of thread production, giving rise to an abundance of cloth, which led to an abundance of clothes, which led to an abundance of rags, and, since paper can be made from linen rags, cheaper paper.

In the period before the 14th century in Europe, paper was difficult to produce due to a scarcity of rags. Books were, therefore, in short supply because as an alternative to paper, it took one or two hundred sheep or calves to make the parchment to form one good, thick Bible.

The bottleneck was not the copying of the book (done then by scribes who were relatively plentiful) but the cost of the material on which to write. With an abundance of rags, paper became cheap, and the bottleneck shifted to the scribe who, in writing the book by hand, could no longer keep up with the paper supply. Thus arose the need for a faster way of copying printed material, and this historical need gave rise to the printing press.

The printing press led to an abundance of affordable books. Affordable books have allowed us to build the astonishing array of libraries which we now enjoy. But the analysis doesn’t stop there, for cheap books and public libraries in which they can be found are key elements in the diffusion of knowledge within a society.

Now, societies tend to stratify and stabilize on the basis of the stratification of knowledge (another bottleneck). With increased access to information and diffusion of knowledge to the lower strata of society, the evolution of democracy as we now know it was possible. Democracy then could be said to be the result of the steady though not especially rapid elimination of bottlenecks beginning with the spinning wheel over a thousand years ago.
(Burke, James. Connections. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978) How do we begin to look purposefully at today’s bottlenecks to the mission of our libraries and use technology as a tool for overcoming these bottlenecks?

Look for alliances to overcome the bottlenecks
No single institution can address these challenges alone. Therefore, I suggest that the way to attack them is via partnerships and alliances. The consortia of libraries by region and/or type is one such alliance to increase affordability and accessibility. But what about others? Consider the alliances of publishers and libraries to bring the material to the user in electronic mode and complement (or sometimes completely bypass) the hard-copy delivery mechanism.

I believe that alliances are built on enlightened self-interest. This requires that you and your ally have a shared vision or at the very least that you understand each other’s visions and missions fully. If you can’t answer “What’s in it for me?” not only for yourself but also for those you seek to form alliances with, you probably won’t be effective in creating the alliance—even though it might be the most effective way to bring that troublesome bottleneck tumbling down. The path is strewn with failed partnerships where the end might have been laudable, but the price was just too high (and price is not always measured in dollars; it can be ego, perceived independence, etc.). But, when done right, the results can be amazing and can help all parties succeed.

Look, for example, at the amazing and continuing success of OCLC, an alliance of libraries now worldwide in scope. Not all alliances, however, are that grand. Simple collaborations with other components of your organization (infrastructure units such as telecommunications or computing, for example) may be the most significant efforts you can implement to pursue your mission and reduce bottlenecks to achieve your vision.

Thinking strategically to be considered ‘strategic’
What do I mean when I suggest that you should be thinking strategically? To understand this phrase, you must understand what I mean by strategies. I maintain that strategies are the policies (written or unwritten) that guide organizational decisions, and they are tied inextricably to the nature, direction, and basic purpose of an organization (or individual). These policies are connected to an organization’s mission and vision, but are more about how the mission and vision are achieved. They are not always explicit (or written, but strategies can (and must actively) be deduced from the actions of people and organizations crucial to you. This deductive process goes on all the time in the minds of your users, for example. They think about what is important to their efforts, and if your strategies seem to be to their benefit, then your organization is important to them as well. Because your organization’s importance is best measured in the minds of your customers, or key stakeholders, your strategies must align with theirs. If your actions (and strategies) communicate that you are vital to their interests and strategies, then your organization is “strategically positioned” with respect to them.

When marketing professionals talk about “positioning” they never mean what they think of a product or service but what a potential customer thinks. You must do the same thing. You must put yourself in the shoes of your customers and other key individuals. Remember the sample mission that said “making users more effective in a competitive environment”—if you are not vital, in your customer’s eyes, then you are not strategically “positioned” with respect to them. Simple as that is to describe, it is not so simple to execute, for this alignment is fundamentally a communication problem. You can’t operate effectively without explicitly portraying the value you contribute to your users. You can’t “not communicate.” Inaction as well as action “positions” you in the minds of your customers and other important stakeholders.

It is important to be positioned well with both your “users” and “choosers” (i.e. those who choose what you will get in the way of resources). Customers are only one of the key groups. They may not be the direct users of your services, but they are certainly just as vital. There are board members, senior executives, other managers, user group representatives, etc.

In short, you must have a clear understanding of your own strategies, though it is not always easy to keep them consistent and explicit. Even more crucial is to have a clear understanding of the strategies of the community in which you reside and which you serve. You must align your strategies with the strategies of your key stakeholders (and there may be many different types). And, finally, you must always make explicit the value of your organization to those you serve, and that is primarily a communication challenge.

Mashing gophers and smashing bottlenecks
To borrow from a popular desktop sign, “Don’t let the bottlenecks wear you down.” I have been arguing for partnerships or alliances as one means of battling the bottlenecks. In many arcades there is a “gopher game” in which the player wields a padded mallet against gophers popping up randomly from a variety of holes. The faster the player mashes the gopher back into the hole, the faster the next gopher pops up. But some of these games have two mallets and can be played by a pair of gopher mashers. Then the gopher is really in trouble. That’s what I like about partnerships.

What other strategies are available to address the bottlenecks in this age of the Internet? Certainly user education is one. But one that I like even more is provider education, and by that I mean learning from the user. Listening to the user via focus group interviews, exit interviews, user groups, surveys, advisory boards (selected to represent both those who use your services and those who decide how much resource you will get) is important—more important in many ways than having them listen to you.

Don’t fight battles on all fronts. Select the most significant obstacles and evaluate them against current resources and available technology. By looking at both cost of eliminating the bottleneck and payoff when the bottleneck is diminished or gone, you can select your strategies for optimum use of your time, energy, and other resources.

I used the phrase “age of the Internet,” which is just a shorthand way of saying a time of rapid change. Really, when haven’t we lived in a age of rapid change? My grandmother, who died at the age of 93, saw more change than I think I will even if I live that long. As a new bride, she rode from the church in a horse and buggy used by her husband, a country doctor, to make his rounds. Before she died, she was flying on a jet passenger aircraft to visit relatives in California she had never seen before. What change could I ever experience, Internet not withstanding, that could equal that? Perhaps a vacation on the moon would be comparable.

Short of such a vacation, your pursuit of change should be consistent with your (unchanging) vision and mission. So spend your time now on that aspect of planning and then the “age of Internet” will be just one more phase in your own process of eliminating bottlenecks.


By W. David Penniman
W. David Penniman currently serves as professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Tennessee and is the director of the Center for Information Studies. He is also a consultant to senior management in information systems, resources, and services. He holds an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in behavioural science from Ohio State University. His e-mail address is penniman@utk.edu

Monday, August 28, 2017

Incorporating organizational values into the strategic planning process

Forsman, Rick B. “Incorporating organizational values into the strategic planning process.” Journal of Academic Librarianship, July 1, 1990., Vol. 16, Issue 3, p. 150, 4 p.
Incorporating organizational values into the strategic planning process
Libraries have adapted a number of practices from the for-profit sector, including strategic planning. Because the attitudes and beliefs of employees influence their acceptance of and commitment to organizational goals, a values assessment should be an initial step in the planning process. This article looks at the importance of identifying value systems prior to engaging in strategic planning in libraries.

For a variety of reasons, organizations in the non-profit sector are implementing more techniques derived from business. As they seek continued existence in a changeable environment, hospitals, institutions of higher education, and libraries of all kinds have adopted a growing range of practices borrowed from the business world. In recent years libraries have ventured into the unfamiliar process of strategic planning.

There are indicators, however, that librarians may be missing some of the benefits that can come from this new process by skipping a crucial first step. Not all planning models include a recognition of the important role played by employee value systems and beliefs. Final plans may look good on paper, but, unless supported by the values and beliefs of the people who must implement them, programs and services outlined in the plan may not develop as envisioned.

Strategic planning process
As in budgeting, different varieties of planning processes wax and wane in popularity. One of the current forms in vogue, strategic planning, has been widely used in a range of settings and is described in numerous texts
(See George A. Steiner, Strategic Planning: What Every Manager Must Know (New York: Free Press, 1989); George A. Steiner, Management Policy and Strategy, 3rd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1986), Joseph P. Peters, A Strategic Planning Process for Hospitals (Chicago: American Hospital Association, 1985), and Timothy A. Nolan, Applied Strategic Planning in a Library Setting (San Diego, CA: University Associates, 1987). While this particular technique also exists in slightly different variations, it commonly consists of seven sequential steps whereby the organization:
1. identifies its internal value and belief systems,
2. assesses environmental factors,
3. writes a concise mission statement,
4. creates program strategies that state goals and timeframes,
5. reviews past and present performance
6. scrutinizes its ability to achieve the plan, and
7. develops contingency plans.

The scope of step one may vary, but a values audit can identify professional beliefs, staff preferences, ethical considerations, and other important values that need to be reflected in the new plan if it is to be successful.
 
For our purposes the term values will refer to those abstract ideals, both positive and negative, that guide attitudes, actions, and interpersonal relations. Values may be vague, such as beauty or honor, or they may be specific, such as a belief that a person should always behave in a certain manner under given circumstances, but they are quite often individualistic. A group may hold the same general value or a related set of values, yet have slightly different interpretations among group members. 
The business literature
The general strategic planning model has been widely applied in the business world, but the library and higher education literature shows little evidence of the model’s adoption. In discussing the strategic planning process with a consultant from the Office of Management Studies at the Association of Research Libraries, the author learned that, of the libraries that do practice strategic planning, few seem to be including the values audit step—a marked departure from other fields.
 
The business literature reveals several significant areas that may be clarified or revealed through a values audit: 
  • the role of idealistic values,
  • ways to reinforce the congruence of personal and organizational values, and
  • the differences in values among groups within the organization 
On the first theme, Harmon and Jacobs, writing about the establishment of a broad company credo, point to the many benefits of idealistically stated values (e.g., the intent to be socially responsible in all business decisions [Frederick G. Harmon and Garry Jacobs, “Company Personality,” Management Review 74 (October 1985): 36-40]. Besides energizing employees, idealistic values can provide a framework that shapes response to crises or helps identify the avenue of choice when difficult decisions are required. Librarians voice such ideals when advocating freedom of information, freedom from censorship, or patron rights to privacy. 
Popular writers such as Tom Peters and Rosabeth Moss Kanter claim that corporate success is determined by a firm set of underlying organizational beliefs. (See Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, A Passion for Excellence (New York: Random House, 1985), p. 330-331; and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Change Masters (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 116) Posner et al. take the same position while pointing to the necessity of aligning personal and organizational values (Barry Z. Posner, James M. Kouzes, and Warren H. Schmidt, “Shared Values Make A Difference: AN Empirical Test of Corporate Culture,” Human Resources Management 24 (Fall 1985): 293-309). Looking at the consequences of conflicting values, Barone describes the problem of unintended miscommunication and the need for team members to minimize conflict by explicitly discussing personal values at the outset of major change (Frank J. Barone, “Can Conflicting Values on the Change Team Work?” Training and Development Journal 40 (August 1986): 50-52). Wilkins and Ouchi relate that Japanese businesses generally hire inexperienced personnel and then put them through a rigorous socialization process that helps them internalize the company philosophy and goals. (Alan L. Wilkins and William G. Ouchi, “Efficient Cultures: Exploring the Relationship between Culture and Organizational Performance,” Administrative Science Quarterly 28 (September 1983): 468-481) On the other hand, some firms (like Hewlett-Packard) intensively screen applicants in order to increase the likelihood of hiring those who already are compatible with certain extant organizational values and orientations. 
Further stressing the need for shared values, Alexander outlines a training program designed to inculcate a business philosophy into the minds and decisions of new employees. (George P. Alexander, “Establishing Shared Values Through Management Training Programs,” Training and Development Journal 41 (February 1987): 45-47). During one part of the program, participants learn to make choices based on company values in situations resembling the ambiguities and contradictions of the real world. The shared values thus become filters for all decisions and new employees learn how to use them in guiding their actions. 
Finally, the business literature reflects the fact that values are also important in relation to one’s background or profession. Bamberger reminds us that personal values are influenced by social norms, by values in an industry or community, and by the culture of a given organization (I. Bamberger, “Values and Strategic Behaviour,” Management International Review 26 (4): 57-69). Miller et al. warn that strategic planning may decrease productivity if the plan fails to embrace the values of a key professional group (Gerald J. Miller, Jack Rabin, and W. Bartley Hildreth, “Strategy, Values, and Productivity,” Public Productivity Review 43 (Fall 1987): 81-96). 
Library applications
From the above it is evident that values have an impact at several levels. They determine both what is done and how it is accomplished. Peters and Austin claim that “any closely held value, no matter how well concealed (even from yourself), inevitably prompts action that is consistent with it.”
(Peters and Austin, Passion for Excellence, p. 333). The library profession has a number of deeply held values which tend to have a direct impact on behavior. In discussing the philosophies of public service agencies in general, Posey et al. make several statements that describe libraries quite well. 
Their internal organizational values emphasize the quality of client services, often at the expense of the agency itself. 
When client services are underfunded or not totally staffed, it becomes difficult for most practitioners to accept diverting valuable staff time or funds into strategic planning. 
Agency members instinctively respond with tactics designed for individual or program self-preservation rather than agency survival (Pamela A. Posey, Barbara McIntosh, and E. Lauck Parke, “Preparing Public Service Agencies for Strategic Planning,” International Journal of Public Administration 10 (December 1987): 421-437) 
In other words, values will drive behavior whether they are acknowledged or not. According to the seven-step planning model, the library’s philosophy of service must be explicit and built into its mission statement. Unless the professional and idealistic values underlying librarianship are set forth, library management and staff make short-term decisions that lead to long-term failure. Librarians are frequently concerned about values and ethics, especially as they relate to client services. It is fitting that they be clearly outlined as a foundation for a successfully strategic plan. 
At the same time, success is unlikely if personal and organizational values are inharmonious. Plans have little hope of being put into place if they lack support or, worst of all, violate strongly held beliefs. Staff values need to be identified and, once known, efforts must be made to further link them to the guiding principles of the library. While the rigor of the Japanese assimilation procedure may be more than desired, thoughtful orientation and training for new employees helps strengthen the bonding process and produces a variety of benefits, as related by Posner et al (Posner et al, “Shared Values,” pp. 298-301). 
Erez points out that performance is determined by a proper balance of goal-setting with the culture and values of a work group (Miriam Erez, “The Congruence of Goal-Setting Strategies with Socio-Cultural Values and its Effect on Performance,” Journal of Management 12/4 (1986): 585-592). A strategic plan developed by the upper echelon of a rigid hierarchy will not perform well if the majority of staff are alienated by the content or the way in which the plan was instituted. Librarians have applied this knowledge in setting up teams to implement automated systems, but such involvement may be dropped at the conclusion of a given project and not considered in general planning. 
In a recap of human reactions to technological change, Fine shows that “the negativism and outrage that result from the violation of traditional and cherished values will compromise the employee’s identification with the organization or the profession” and will produce resistance in one form or another (Sara F. Fine, “Technological Innovation, Diffusion and Resistance: An Historical Perspective,” Journal of Library Administration 7 (Spring 1986): 83-108). Haven’t we all witnessed the reluctance of some staff to let go of manual procedures or the confrontations between veteran librarians and a new library director who proposes change? On an operational level this kind of conflict frustrates and holds back everyone. The underlying issues need to be identified and worked through, yet it is much better to do so early in the strategic planning process rather than continually butting heads over undisclosed beliefs. 
On the positive side, libraries can use the values assessment as a springboard to revamp operations in a way that elicits enthusiasm and support from the staff. Human resources are a key factor in achieving success. The Bank of America learned through an attitude assessment that employees believed it was best to avoid risk and to be “nice” rather than frank (Robert N. Beck, “Visions, Values, and Strategies: Changing Attitudes and Culture,” Academy of Management EXECUTIVE 1 (February 1987): 33-41). Consequently, an intensive change agenda was devised to create a commitment-driven organization where managers adopted and modeled behavior consistent with honesty and risk taking. 
Similarly, libraries can narrow the gap between existing beliefs and desired ideals. Managers can demonstrate actions based on preferred values and encourage subordinates to do the same, thus increasing the likelihood of organizational success and staff empowerment. The old maxim “Practice what you preach” applies to organizational values as well as to other attitudes. 
Through identification of staff values, those leading the strategic planning process can more realistically develop an implementation package. By acknowledging values and making an effort to blend them into the plan itself, the chances of successful and timely completion are increased. For example, our library’s audit revealed a somewhat unexpected outlook among support staff. Despite being firmly enmeshed in a bureaucratic state system which repeatedly emphasizes seniority, staff expressed a preference that rewards go to those who demonstrated competence and commitment much more than to those who simply showed strong organizational loyalty. In our case it will be important to find ways to distribute some rewards in accordance with staff values rather than relying solely on a state-prescribed system that conflicts with the way employees measure their own worth. 
Recommendations
The following are logical actions that libraries can take to incorporate values into the strategic plan.
 
Early in the planning process assess the work and service values of all employees. A number of assessment instruments are readily available, but the library might be happiest using these as ideas for developing its own tools. Beware of instruments that require complex scoring, however. (University Associates, Inc. publishes an excellent annual compilation of short articles, assessments, and group exercises for human resource development. Two values audit instruments from earlier publications may serve as useful starting points: Roger Harrison, “Diagnosing Organizational Ideology,” in The 1975 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators, ed. J.E. Jones and J.W. Pfeffer (San Diego: University Associates, 1975), pp. 101-107; and Mark Alexander, “Organizational Norms Oppionnaire,” in The 1978 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators, ed. J.W. Pfeffer and J.E. Jones (San Diego: University Associates, 1978), pp. 81-88). 
Clarify values through a feedback mechanism. Report the audit findings back to employees and ask for discussion, questions, and validation. While some audit responses will give a clear picture of group beliefs or attitudes, others may be inconclusive. Results may suggest that a particular question has been interpreted differently by different individuals or in a way other than was what originally intended. Drawing firm conclusions can be a tricky matter, calling for action to seek clarification or expert assistance. 
Throughout the strategic planning process look for ways to mesh values with implementation methods. When library goals are consistent with personal and professional values, resistance is minimalized. When employees are also comfortable with how the goals will be achieved, accomplishment is even more probable. 
Repeatedly point out the alignment of values with the plan. Everyone needs to be reminded that they took part in defining the organization’s explicit values and that, in turn, those ideals are directly related to the general direction and daily operation of the library. 
When orientating new employees, stress values and philosophy and how they are to be relied upon in making daily work decisions. Give staff a framework for weighing the impact of their choices and encourage the habit of referring back to the strategic plan as a guide. 
For existing personnel, outline the same framework and reinforce their efforts to use it in decision making. 
These six ideas derive from personal experience with planning. In the author’s workplace the audit revealed numerous values that are currently being incorporated into the planning process, the strategic plan itself, and the mechanisms for realizing it. Once staff responses to the audit were tabulated, the results were presented at an information meeting. Questions and comments during the meeting and over the next several days helped clarify the responses and their meanings. Follow-up meetings have since been held to emphasize the congruence of the strategic plan with organizational values and to point out the derivation of daily priorities from the overall direction and overarching priorities of the plan. As new employees are hired they will be grounded in library goals and philosophies. 
One unexpected outcome of the clear identification of library values is a new benchmark for use in hiring. We now have a much better idea of what attitudes and beliefs will make potential employees happy or unhappy in our library, and their ideals can be explored as part of the search for a mutually satisfying match. 
Although our librarians presented no surprises in the service philosophies they held, the support staff showed clear preferences for how the plan should be accomplished. Recurring throughout their responses was the message that they prized active involvement and recognition of their worth as responsible employees. They also wanted an open climate with full disclosure of task requirements, conflicts, decisions, and how personal interest could be matched with unassigned or changing duties. 
These attitudes are being built into several areas in the library’s strategic planning, with preservation being a case in point. Recently two small units were merged to form a Collection Development and Preservation Department, which will take responsibility for developing and incrementing a comprehensive preservation program. Support staff will be key players on a team charged with creating the plan. They will be active participants in determining what needs to be done, what tasks will take priority, how jobs are redesigned, and how organizational needs are balanced with personal desires. Involvement in this work is seen as both recognition and reward for competence and as a response to employee wishes for participation.
Attempts to factor values and beliefs into strategic planning have complicated the process to some extent. It takes more thought to link people with organizational goals, but the values audit has given a clearer picture of what issues must be made congruent between the two. By both incorporating some values and remolding others, the library should benefit from a strong internal commitment to implementing the plan. 
by Rick. B. Forsman
Rick B. Forsman is Deputy Director, Denison Memorial Library, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Five steps toward planning today for tomorrow’s needs

Feinman, Valerie Jackson. “Five Steps Toward Planning Today for Tomorrow’s Needs,” Computers in Libraries, Jan 99, Vol. 19, Issue 1, pp. 18-21.
Five steps toward planning today for tomorrow’s needs
Strategic planning in libraries today must always, because of the rapid advances in technologies, define the business of the organization in which the library is situated. Most libraries are in the business of education—educating the public, the employees, or the faculty and the students. In public libraries this means satisfying the community’s need for entertainment and access to research needs; in a corporate library it means supporting industry and computer analysis; and in a college or university library it means supporting both the education of the students and the teaching and research needs of the faculty.
 
Strategic planning for technologies in a college or university must be a cooperative effort with input from the administration, the computing center personnel, and the faculty, taking into account the mission statement of the academy, the financial restrictions of the budget, and the mandated programs utilizing these technologies. Faculty input is essential and critical, both in terms of how faculty actually uses technology and how faculty may be encouraged to redevelop syllabi that reflect that use. Faculty leadership is critical to the collection, development, and management of that input. 
The role of the librarian is increasingly important during strategic planning, as educator and leader within the process, whether that process occurs within the library or in the larger institution, as these are intimately connected. What happens in the academic library is a microcosm of what is happening in libraries nationally. 
The strategic plan developed should offer a pattern that integrates major goals, policies, and action sequences of the organization into a cohesive whole. It should help allocate resources, capitalize on relative strengths, mitigate against weaknesses, exploit projected shifts in the environment, and counter possible actions of competitors. Thus a well-articulated strategic plan should set a clear direction, allow for the strengths and weaknesses within the competitive environment, devote resources to projects that utilize the set of core competencies and primary skills within the organization, identify areas within the social and political environment that require careful monitoring, and recognize the competitive areas that need careful attention. 
Why should we plan?
One problem in strategic planning is actually envisioning what is “needed”. At a recent meeting here at Adelphi University, where I am coordinator of library instruction and chair of the faculty senate, when committee members were asked to list what was needed, they replied: “pull more wires, purchase more computers,” and “we need upgrades.” These are facile and unimaginative answers. When the technologies we probably need do not yet exist, we have trouble knowing what we really want or need.

What I really need is instant delivery of full-text data across a wide time-span whenever I complete a search, and the ability to download the relevant papers, complete with diagrams and graphs. I should be able to download a full book into my electronic reading machine and use it at will. We don’t quite have the technologies for this yet, and the older texts of journals and books haven’t been digitized. But I do know what I need to ease and enhance my research. We have to ask the question: “What do you need?” and build on that before we start planning, lest we spin our wheels endlessly talking about what is now possible rather than what is needed. Our strategic plans must allow for future developments and for our wish lists, and must not be a mere enhancement of what we now have.

So, how do we plan for this future when the technologies do not yet support it, when the publishing industry is producing money-making rather than educationally needed products? How shall librarians plan for future librarians when we haven’t yet begun to organize the Web, and when we squabble about what our profession might become rather than taking the lead in fashioning it?
 
The five-step strategic planning process
Developing a strategic plan may be necessary for many reasons. Perhaps it has been years since the last plan was formulated, and a new one is needed. Or, growth within a public library’s community may indicate the need for a branch library or for a building extension. The company may be expanding or downsizing, requiring a new adaptive plan. The academy must be re-accredited every decade, and must have a dynamic plan demonstrating its mission and the goals to be reached. In all of these cases, planning is necessary and tends to follow a usual path:
 
1. Situational and environmental analysis
2. Development of organizational direction

3. Formulation of strategic plan

4. Implementation of the plan

5. Strategic control, feedback, evaluation
 
In this article, I’ll look at each of these steps in more detail and offer some insight gained from what has happened at my own institution. 
1. Situational and environmental analysis
Once a project is well begun, it is half done. So this initial analysis is absolutely critical to the eventual writing of the planning document. Many people from various elements must participate in the following tasks: Look at the environment in which the library and academy are operating; evaluate the competition and its offerings; seek full knowledge of the needs of the constituency; investigate mandates from the community, accrediting agency, or government; discover market niches that are unmet; and seek opportunities consistent with external realities.
 
Questions that are useful include: Where is this library/institution today in terms of existing technologies to support its work? Where do the faculty/students/ community need to support their teaching/study/research? How might a curriculum be altered in terms of existing resources, what competitive academies offer, and what students need to learn? What value-added education (in terms of technologies) do we want to address this issue? Who is our competition, and why, and do we want to continue competing at that level? 
At this point many of us might say, “Whoa! This is too complex!” But it isn’t. As librarians we do much of the thinking required automatically as we improve the services we offer: arguing for new methods, reading our literature, evaluating what we do, and making those changes as needed. When I called to serve on the committee developing the library’s strategic plan for technologies, I realized that as an instruction librarian I was, every semester, teaching students in a management course how to do situational analysis for an industry. I applied the precepts of what I was teaching to my own study for the library. 
Your analysis should also examine the core values of your institution. You must reflect on the traditional values in a dynamic and complex environment; assess current programs; adapt to the emerging trends with the appropriate plans consistent with your vision, your mission, and your strengths as an institution—or, decide not to adapt. And you must develop the tools to provide our graduating students with an education well-informed by technologies. 
Librarians bring many useful qualities to this analysis. We work with people at all levels, adapting to their modes of learning. We develop the ability to see the overall picture more clearly than do subject-oriented teaching faculty or bottom-line-oriented administrators. Our contributions as team members are highly undervalued. 
At Adelphi, one forum for analysis is our Faculty Senate, which meets biweekly to discuss academic and curricular affairs and approve curricular initiatives forwarded by its committees. When an issue is raised by a professor or dean, their discussion can illuminate analysis or enhance vision or facilitate implementation. As senate chair, I should know where data can be found and who the knowledgeable players are. 
One of the senate subcommittees decided to query users of academic computing, via e-mail, and ask what problems were arising. Questions poured in from users, and were answered after much discussion. There were some easy answers, and some hard ones, but we found answers and made changes. Then we posted the answers on e-mail, along with committee minutes. This is an ongoing project. 
2. Development of organizational direction
There are generally three main indicators of direction—values, mission, and objectives. Vision includes aspirations, core values, and philosophies at very general levels. Our mission statements translate these into more doable statements of institutional purpose. Objectives are those items—call them targets perhaps—that allow us to succeed in our mission. Our direction may be established, informed, reaffirmed, or modified through environmental/situational analysis.
 

Decisions about organizational direction are made after full consultation with administrative leadership, and are informed by discussions at all levels. A major problem may occur when the vision of our leadership is at odds with that of our traditional values and bases. Here at Adelphi, we had an earlier leadership that wanted us to become an elitist college, while our student base had always been people training in professional schools. Delicate negotiations at several levels, fully informed by situational analysis, led to a “new” direction in which an improved general undergraduate education will lead seamlessly into our professional schools, or into the workforce. Adelphi is situated on Long Island, where there are 32 degree-granting institutions within 40 miles. Competition for students is fierce. 
In my experience, once the vision is discussed, and the mission statement formulated, the objectives become clearer. 
3. Formulation of strategic plan
Once the analysis is completed and the direction is established, you can proceed with the actual formulation of the plan. Planning can be done at various levels, but in universities it is usually driven by accrediting agencies that demand dynamic planning as the cost of re-accreditation. Teams, usually dominated by faculty, gather data, analyze it, and report out on the knowledge gleaned. The in-house accreditation leaders sift through all this, and develop a coherent planning document. When planning is needed between site visits, then it’s done in a similar fashion, but not driven by the agency’s requirements. 
Formulation is difficult and doesn’t always take place as planned. In fact, this is often the case. We had appointed two Task Forces to study the environmental issues affecting growth in two of our graduate schools. One team developed a definitive plan that stated strengths and weaknesses, and laid out an exact plan for putting the school on track for today’s market needs. The second team developed an reasonable philosophy for improving the school, but provided no implementable planning document. 
A solid plan should include the following information:
  • Statement of mission for the whole, or for the unit within the whole, and relating to the overall mission
  • How the unit will respond to and flesh out that mission statement
  • What resources are needed, and a timeline for these: faculty, staff, resources, technologies
  • Where those resources will be found, how they fit into the existing and future budgetary considerations, and which grants should be sought
  • What governance issues are involved
  • A full timeline for implementation of changes
  • Allowance for feedback, evaluation, and adjustment procedures (see also step 5 below)
4. Implementation of the plan
An implementation plan must be well formulated and flexible, allowing procedures for many kinds of unplanned but needed changes. With this in mind, we then develop an implementation schedule that states the order of implementation and what steps should be taken at what time. It must also allow for changes when necessary, and outline the resource budget. Steps might include: change the focus and curriculum of school/department X to meet market needs; develop curriculum for Y course; hire Z faculty to teach Y course when developed; increase library resources to provide materials and staff to support X; convert library databases to Web-based when proxy server is installed in December 1998, etc.
 
In the fall of 1998, our Faculty Senate approved a 5-year calendar, with the following built-in provision: “This calendar shall be in force, unless a future Senate decides to make a change before October 15 of the preceding year.” It is difficult to determine implementation exactly in an environment where technological changes are frequent, rapid, and comprehensive. Even calendar plans, which appear straightforward at first glance, may require future changes. 
Curricular changes occurring on campus may suddenly upset the carefully developed plan. Last year our faculty passed a new General Education requirement, for which the library would provide two sessions of instruction during the fall semester. Library faculty agreed to this. Then the GenEd committee decided there would be a maximum of 20 students in each class. Suddenly the library faculty, eight of whom now provide instruction sessions, must plan for 50 or more additional sessions. We are seeking to add an instruction faculty member—while some library faculty see alternative positions as more important. 
The university Web page is under construction once again. Someone hired a commercial outfit to produce it, and many problems resulted. The hired firm had no concept of the importance of library access—so library faculty had to scream loud and clear. We now have a button on the home page, and control over what is seen on the following library pages. These seem like simple things, but require constant vigilance. 
5. Strategic control, feedback, and evaluation
Now that we have completed the earlier steps, we must ensure good feedback, evaluation, and review of the rollout of the strategic plan. In academia, faculty are intimately involved with all steps involving curricula and other academic affairs. Faculty Senate representatives meet biweekly with the Provost and Presidents Cabinet to ensure that faculty needs are being met during the implementation. Everyone watches the rollout carefully. Minor corrections are made as needed. Some of the changes chronicled above demonstrate this ongoing process.
 
The library’s place in strategic planning
And you may well say: “Where does the library fit into all of this?” Our library contributed to every step of the process, being fully represented on all committees. The mission statement of the library is fully compatible with the overall mission statement of the university. The library supports strategic planning for technologies with its own variations, including those for instruction. We know that the library is well-represented, because a librarian chairs the Faculty Senate and ensures this.
 
When many viewpoints are needed to ensure the success of strategic planning, we librarians can guarantee some measure of success by becoming involved, by getting into the game, and preferably by taking a position of power!
By Valerie Jackson Feinman
Valerie Jackson Feinman has been coordinator of library instruction at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, since 1985. She has an M.S.(L.S.) from Syracuse and an M.B.A. from Adelphi. She has served in academic libraries since 1965, and writes and speaks frequently about instruction issues. She was recently re-elected as chairperson of the Faculty Senate at Adelphi. Her e-mail address is feinman@adlibv.adelphi.edu