All posts by Katherine Kott

About Katherine Kott

Management, organizational effectiveness, and organizational change consultant in the academic sector. Experience working with libraries, museums, archives, and other not-for-profits to manage change and enhance organizational effectiveness. Areas of expertise include meeting facilitation, team building, leadership development, volunteer program development, organizational design, performance improvement, change management, systems thinking.

Pinnacles Retrospective

Hello, this is Katherine and Katrina hereafter known as KK and KA which should explain our cute spelling below.  We have been friends for almost 25 years: first as work colleagues then as hiking buddies and now camping pals. Last year, at Pinnacles National Park, on our first camping trip together, we consumed a couple of beers and decided that we were having such a grand time that we should share our adventures.

While following the current social distancing practices and without a lot to do, we revived the idea of a blog so we could reminisce about last year’s trip.  This is our Pinnacles Retrospective.


When we’re not under “shelter-in-place” restrictions, March is a good time to go to Pinnacles. It gets cold at night, but daytime temperatures are perfect for hiking.  Our campsite was #79 in Loop C. We cannot recommend that site for Winter or early Spring camping because there’s a small stream of water that runs through the middle of the two tent pads.  It’s just a little too muddy. We checked out a few other sites for the next trip, you might like: #66, #61, #50, #40, and #37.

However, #79 is a wonderful site for viewing wildlife.  If you’re a birder, you will appreciate the California Quail, the Acorn Woodpeckers (left), the California Thrasher, the Water Pipits, and a variety of hawks overhead.


Before we departed, we planned our meals on Google docs then procured our provisions.  Our first meal was a dutch oven dinner: short ribs marinated in Kinder’s garlic BBQ sauce and slow cooked over campfire coals.  Before cooking, we added a few quartered, small red potatoes, half of a head of peeled garlic cloves, and chunks of white onion plus a cup or two of water to dilute the saltiness of the Kinder’s.  

We served the stew along with iceberg lettuce wedges and blue cheese dressing. Yum! Red wine (don’t remember which one… probably from Trader Joe’s) was the perfect libation.

We conserved the broth from the dutch oven dinner and used it for the sweet potato chili we made on the second night.  Adding the broth kept it from being vegetarian, but added a rich umami flavor. We enjoyed a couple of Sierra Nevadas that night.   On our third night we had a simple ramen with canned salmon that was ideal after three days of hiking. Wine? Probably a Chardonnay.

For a sweet treat, we had brioche bombs with hazelnut chocolate.  Just take store bought croissants, cut them in half, and place a piece of your favorite fancy chocolate bar between the halves.  Wrap it in foil, stick a skewer in it, and roast it over the fire. It’s all melty goodness.

By the way, KK fed us oatmeal, yogurt, and Starbucks Via instant Italian Roast every morning to fuel us for our activities.

Hiking and Klimbing

On arrival, we acclimated by taking an easy stroll along Chalone and Bear creeks. It’s mostly a shaded trail with lots of wildflowers.  The Visitor Center has a board where campers can list the wildflowers they’ve seen.

The next day, we made the strenuous climb to the High Peaks.  When we got close to the top, we were fortunate to encounter a study group with a telescope. They invited us to view one of the tagged California Condors roosting on the rocks.  It’s good we actually saw a condor because we had spent several minutes studying a couple of Turkey Vultures that we were convinced were condors. KA’s photographs disproved our hopes of spotting condors on our own.

Besides the weather, another reason to visit Pinnacles in mid-March is that Bear Gulch Cave will be fully open before it’s pupping season for the colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats. So on day three, we explored Bear Gulch Cave.  There were some challenges with the stream running through the cave and flashlights or headlamps are required.


Back at boggy #79, on our second night, we endured our campground neighbors’ newborn (as moms, we were a little judgy about how young she was) crying all night.  The baby was probably cold–we sure were. They were nice people but that baby was miserable. The next day, her cries lured a coyote out of the woods to take a look.  Shortly after the coyote appeared, the family packed up and left. The following evening, we kicked back with beers and marveled at more wildlife: a trio of deer, a blue belly lizard, and a fox!


Pinnacles National Park is a great place to  visit. From the East Bay, it takes a little over two hours without traffic.  You can go for a day and climb the High Peaks and a three night trip allows you to experience much of the park.

Yours sincerely,

KK and KA (Note: KA took all the photos! KK left her phone out overnight and it froze! Inadvisable!)


Shelter in Place

As of 12:01 am on Tuesday, March 17th, residents of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties have been ordered to “shelter in place” to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Most people were already working from home and schools and libraries have closed. This new measure limits non-essential travel as well as any type of gathering that is not required for health and well being–even or maybe especially–going to the gym or to a fitness class. Studios are scrambling to provide online classes to stay connected with their communities and provide people with much-needed stress relief.

It’s OK to hike outside as long as you remain six feet away from anyone who does not live in the same household. Dog walking fits within this type of outdoor activity, thank goodness. We are sticking with neighborhood walks and avoiding dog parks.

People in my age group are particularly advised to stay home as much as possible. My wonderful younger neighbors have offered a shopping pool so that more vulnerable folks don’t have to venture out to get groceries or other essentials. The ordinances allow restaurants to prepare food for takeout, but not serve food on the premises. Bars are closed. Thank goodness for streaming content, e-books, and online meeting platforms.

In late February/early March, I was quite sick (high fever, night sweats) but my doctor thought what I had was “regular flu.” If that was “regular flu” I certainly hope to avoid Covid-19. Stay safe, everyone. Shelter in place!


Community Engagement Three Ways

While the events of the past year have inspired some folks to write about current events, I needed to spend time experimenting with and reflecting on how best to change what I was doing. According to Ghandi, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” With this in mind, I looked for opportunities to contribute in new ways Continue reading Community Engagement Three Ways Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

New Article on Strategic Planning

I am pleased to report that an article Kathy Dabbour at California State University Northridge (CSUN) and I wrote has just been published in the Journal of Library Administration 57 (4). The article, Dialogic Approaches to Strategic Planning in Academic Libraries, a contribution to the Strategic Planning and Assessment column edited by Wanda V. Dole, discusses trends towards strength-based methods for planning and describes how we used Appreciative Inquiry for strategic planning at CSUN.


Academic Libraries, Community Engagement, and Service Learning

Are community engagement and service learning strategic priorities at your college or university? Are you wondering how your library can be more involved in community engagement and service learning? Do you want to know how you can take your service learning program to the next level? Continue reading Academic Libraries, Community Engagement, and Service Learning Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Implementing Your Strategic Plan

The plan is complete! You’ve engaged stakeholders and set new directions for the organization. Now what? What can you do to ensure the plan comes to life instead of being relegated to a drawer or posted on the web but never visited?

The first challenge is to integrate the plan into the organization’s work so that the plan becomes the work rather than an add-on. The groups in your organization that are responsible for leadership and management might work together to break strategies down into goals or tasks and think about where in the organization responsibility for the task belongs.  Does it fit within the purview of an existing department or work group or is a new cross-functional task force or team with skills from different areas needed? What is the department or task force expected to accomplish and by when? How will they know when the task has been completed? Members of the leadership and management group will need to communicate this information to department heads, supervisors, team leaders, etc. and integrate a regular strategic plan check-in into their meeting agendas. This will ensure that the leaders and managers are aware of progress towards goals. If any initiatives stall, leaders and managers can help remove obstacles or make a decision to revise the plan.

As members of departments, teams, and work groups begin new projects, launch new programs, etc., it important for them to provide regular feedback to management and leadership on their progress as well as the need for resources or additional training, adjustments that may be needed in scheduling, etc. Finally, if managers and team leaders include check-ins on strategic goals in regular coaching and performance conversations with employees, individuals’ work will be aligned with new strategies. This is the kernel of organizational change.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Cultivating Coaching Cultures

Last month, I attended a panel discussion on Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Organization sponsored by the Bay Area Organization Development Network. Only one of the panelists actually talked about how coaching becomes cultural–the others discussed the practice and discipline of becoming a coach. Nonetheless, the event prompted me to think about coaching and reflect on the ways coaching fits within a performance leadership framework. Cultivating a coaching culture has the potential to create an environment in which people are encouraged to see the importance of their contribution to organizational strategy, goals, and objectives. A recent Harvard Business Review article, Finding the Balance Between Coaching and Managing noted that “effective coaching raises employee commitment and engagement, productivity, retention rates, customer loyalty, and subordinates’ perception of the strength of upper-level leadership.” Recognition of each person’s role in organizational success helps keep employees engaged and motivated.

But what is a coaching culture, exactly, and how does coaching fit within a performance leadership framework? And by the way, what is performance leadership?

Unlike a traditional performance assessment process, in which supervisors evaluate employees on an infrequent basis–e.g. annually–performance leadership is a framework that involves all members of an organization in regular goal setting, aligned with overall organizational strategies and objectives. Managers, supervisors, and other leaders (team or program leads without supervisory authority) commit to engaging colleagues in regular (weekly, if possible) conversations about the work, the employee’s interests and skills, obstacles and opportunities, and progress towards goals. Regular conversations about priorities and obstacles, and consistent attention to alignment of employee interests and aptitudes with organizational needs contributes to organizational effectiveness. If the organization is required to comply with an annual performance assessment process, that process may be integrated into the performance leadership framework, although the integration must be undertaken carefully due to the difference between directive supervision and collaborative coaching.

For a successful transition to a coaching culture, leaders in the organization will need to learn what coaching involves and how it works, and to become familiar and comfortable with different roles and relationships with subordinates and colleagues. A workshop such as the one I have developed on performance leadership, which includes exercises to prepare leaders to become coaches–including role playing activities–can be a good way to launch a coaching program. Once the first cohort in the organization has had some experience with coaching, a train the trainer approach can be used to infuse the entire organization with a collaborative approach to reaching organizational goals that expects everyone to take responsibility for organizational effectiveness.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

The Year Ahead–2016

Happy New Year!

What’s on tap for 2016?

  • Continue consulting to organizations–especially libraries–that are motivated to transform themselves through leadership, strategy, and innovative organizational design.
  • Integrate a lifelong commitment to community service through service learning advocacy.
  • Explore the possibility of bridging polarized relationships that are obstacles to transformative change.

I am excited about the publication of a chapter on developing service learning programs in academic libraries forthcoming in Service Learning, Information Literacy, and Libraries in April. Publication of the book will follow a working session on developing an assessment framework for service learning programs in academic libraries at the Libraries and Service Learning Embedded Institute before the Campus Compact 30th anniversary conference: Accelerating Change: Engagement for Impact. Involvement in service learning provides an opportunity for all types of academic libraries to participate in their communities at the campus level and beyond in a variety of ways.

Could libraries prototype models for overcoming structural obstacles to transformative change? It would be great to explore possibilities for creative destruction of barriers to change. Many of these issues were topics at the Taiga Forum at DLF Forum 2015 in Vancouver, BC last October.

Colleagues here in the bay area shared an inspiring story about a direct conversation between union member and managers of a local transit company that they facilitated. Drivers and managers met to exchange information about one specific process–scheduling, but left the meeting with their relationship transformed. For the first time, they had communicated directly rather than through lawyers and mediators about an issue important to both parties and about which there was little initial agreement.

Libraries generally include both managers and union members in strategic planning processes, so it is not really the case that union members and managers do not discuss important issues directly. However, sensitive issues that fall under the Taiga Forum topic “employee relations”  are usually omitted from these discussions–sometimes out of fear of grievances or otherwise motivated by conflict avoidance. Even in non-union environments general discussions about faculty status or tensions between librarians and other library workers are rare.

What would it take to try something different? I don’t have a plan, or goal, or preconceived notion about what might create a shift in structure to create positive change but would love to collaborate on an experiment in this area. Ping me if you’re interested!Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail