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.
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.
Academic library leaders seek new organizational models to support the agility and experimentation needed to respond to an environment characterized by disruptive technological change. While some libraries have created new departments or units within their organizations to focus on digital library development or scholarly publishing, these new endeavors remain situated in traditional 19th century hierarchical organizations.
What organizational structures and processes can provide capacity for innovation, including generation of ideas, launching prototypes and experiments, and evaluating those experiments to decide what new products or services should be implemented? Design thinking–methodologies for generating and implementing new products and services based on user needs–is one framework to explore.
Companies that devote themselves to incubating innovation such as IDEO are able to operate using a fluid organizational structure. IDEO, for example, is organized into “studios” with teams that form and disband as projects come and go.
While this type of organizational structure does not seem feasible for an academic library, which must still engage in running standards-based production operations and services (e.g. metadata creation, digitization, stack maintenance), some libraries are experimenting with bringing design thinking into their organizations in other ways.
The University of Rochester Libraries have led the way in the application of design thinking to service development as well as systems design. While responsibility for this perspective seems to be situated in the Libraries’ usability lab, many people in all departments of a rather traditionally organized library have been involved in design projects.
The Virginia Tech Libraries, under Tyler Walters’ leadership have launched a set of initiatives to encourage innovation, including a library-based hub to build capacity for new systems and services. Although they have not applied the design thinking label to this endeavor, the concept seems to be aligned with design thinking principles.
Based on anecdotal evidence, design thinking may be catching on in academic libraries, albeit slowly. The dominant model for bringing design thinking into the library seems to be through an innovation incubator (working group, council, or hub) or a usability group. Is this a viable model? What are the advantages/disadvantages?
Is it important to introduce design thinking throughout the organization? Is there an innovative organizational design that would enable this? How would a hybrid model of “studios” with self-organizing team alongside a traditional departmental structure organized along functional lines work?
I would love to collect more data about various organizational models libraries have used to foster innovation, and how those models have worked, so post your stories here, or send me an email.