Category Archives: Action Learning

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!

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Consulting Services that Meet Client Needs

Last week, at a conference, a colleague asked me, “What differentiates your services from those that other consultants offer?” It didn’t take me long to respond.

I pride myself on tailoring services to meet client needs rather than leading with a particular technical solution. Like the organization development consultants I studied in my dissertation research, I use Bowen theory as a framework for my work. Within that framework, in collaboration with my clients, I select other theories and tools to enable us to reach our common goals.

For example, Galbraith’s Star model provides a model for understanding how strategy informs structure and other organizational processes. Appreciative Inquiry provides a way to engage people throughout an organization in creating an aspirational vision for the organization. Technologies such as World Cafe create an environment for large group conversations.

While taking the time to identify theories and tools that fit the client’s situation can delay  a project launch, that time is well spent. Finding the best process fit from the start goes a long way towards creating circumstances favorable to a successful engagement.

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