Two sides to that “who’s the boss” coin

In my last post, I talked about how your technology department shouldn’t really be the one making system-wide decisions for the library.

There’s a couple other sides to that coin, I think. They include:

Sometimes, IT should make those decisions. For example:

  • They’re the technology experts, and probably know what will work the best for the library. Listen to them!
  • They know what they can and cannot support. Not to say they can’t learn new things – that’s what techie types do every day – but some things might not be within reach.
  • They can be highly creative people with great ideas. Make sure they’re part of the process.
  • Sometimes the answer has to be no. For example, in the kids department at my library, we can’t just put computers anywhere. The floor is a concrete slab, and requires lots of core drilling, routing concrete, and cabling runs that don’t exist. So the answer from us is: sure, if you want to spend $10-20,000 more on the project. Or – how about let’s rework that idea?

Sometimes, the rest of the library needs to make the decision (but isn’t). You might have this happening:

  • Admin/management is not tech-savvy, so IT has stepped in and is making decisions.
  • Admin/management is being passive, not great at leadership, not great at strategic planning etc … so IT stepped in.
  • There’s simply no strategic plan – so guess what? IT (and reference, and collections, and youth services, etc) will step in and create their own strategies. I’m guessing there’s a better way to do this!

If you’re one of those library staffers saying “IT won’t let me do this” – step back from that immediate problem, and ask yourself “why do they get to decide this?”

Then work on fixing that issue first.

Pic by Garrett Coakley

Which Side of the Bus are You On?

Just a thought from Jim Collins‘ book Good to Great. In that book, Jim writes this: “to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.”

The “bus” is the company, the mission, the strategic plan. The “right people” are the ones that can do the work of the organization. The “wrong people” are the ones that don’t fit, that always cause problems, etc. Jim suggests “removing” those people from the bus, because they’re hindering the organization.

I was thinking about that bus metaphor awhile back. Besides managers, who are thinking about how to get the right people on the bus, who else should be thinking about that bus? Everyone should be.

There are at least five places you can be in relation to that ever-moving bus:

  • In front of the bus. Standing in front of a moving bus is generally NOT a good place to be. You’re going to get hurt. Get run over. There will be damage – to you, and maybe to the bus. These people didn’t plan, didn’t look at the roadmap of the organization, and now they’re standing in the way.
  • On the bus. This is the best place to be. That is, if you are a good fit for the organization, support where the organization is going, and can help get it there.
  • Behind the bus. Better than in front of the bus, but still not a good place to be. These people didn’t leave the organization, but also don’t like where it’s going. So they are being dragged along behind the bus. Maybe slowing the bus down, but not stopping it (because you can’t stop a moving bus).
  • Kicked off the bus. This is what Jim Collins talked about. These people didn’t fit in, and were asked to leave. Probably better to have not gotten on the bus in the first place, or maybe gotten off the bus when you noticed it was going somewhere you didn’t want to go.
  • Pushing the bus. OK. Sometimes, most staff realize the bus should be going somewhere, but the “driver” is snoozing at the wheel. Or driving the wrong way. Or driving too slow (that can be dangerous, right?). So these people are helping the bus along the best they can. There are probably better ways to get the bus moving (Get a new driver? Find a new bus? Wake the driver up? Call the dispatcher? Hmm…).

Where are you? On the bus? Behind the bus? Pushing the bus? Not interested in busses?

Bus photo by Gerard Stolk

New Presentation – Designing the Digital Branch – it’s everyone’s job!

Gina Millsap and I gave this presentation last week at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference (this year in Houston, TX). Great conference, fun people!

Especially check out the final part of this presentation – it will give you a little insight into how my library decides on strategy – through data-mapping and GIS market segmentation data. Really handy stuff.



Open Mindsets

I recently read Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li (she also co-wrote Groundswell). It was an interesting book… some really good thoughts. [Charlene/her publisher sent me the book – thanks Charlene!]

Before I get into those thoughts, a couple of things I didn’t like about the book:

  • The title is misleading – the book really isn’t about social technology. At all. It’s about transforming the way you lead through open leadership. Social media and technology is mentioned a time or two … but it’s not the tech that makes the examples and the stories in the book work – it’s the leaders and the way they manage.
  • Charlene pretty much focuses on really large, international corporations. Sure, a couple of smaller (but highly visible) companies are mentioned, like Zappos. But mostly, the examples involve for-profit corporations with thousands of employees, branches in 30 different countries, etc. For those of us who don’t work in large corporations (i.e., most of you reading my blog) – you’ll have to do a bit of translation work while reading.

Otherwise, a pretty good book on a tough topic – that of guiding leaders to be “open.” Which leads me to the title of this post – Open Mindsets. From page 8 – “… the biggest indicator of success has been an open mind-set – the ability of leaders to let go of control at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount.”

Wow. Easy to say, hard to do, huh? She goes on to list some rules of open leadership (pgs. 14-15):

  1. respect that your customers and employees have power
  2. share constantly to build trust
  3. nurture curiosity and humility
  4. hold openness accountable
  5. forgive failure

… and the rest of the book gives plenty of examples for accomplishing leadership in a more open way.

Definitely worth a read! Did you read it? If so, what did you think?

Resistance vs Management

Kathy left a comment on my Posting and Traffic post, saying “I started off being the only one posting to our library blog. Then management decided that everybody contributing to it would be a good idea, so they put out a schedule. People were resistant, and kept “forgetting”. Now it’s back to…just me posting..”

Instead of the volunteer problem in the last post, this time the problem is two-fold:

1: staff not doing what they’re supposed to do
2: managers not doing what they’re supposed to do

Let’s use the reference desk as an example again. Managers – would you let people say “Nah, I’m not going to show up at the ref desk today. It’s just not a priority for me.” Um, no. That person would be booted out the door pretty fast, I’m guessing.

So what’s happening here? Honestly, it could be any number of things, including:

  • managers don’t really think it’s a priority
  • managers think someone’s assigned to monitor it, but no one really is
  • someone really IS assigned to monitor it, but isn’t doing it
  • someone’s not reporting the problem back to the managers
  • there’s no follow-through with staff, as in training, prodding, reminding … and talking to his/her manager as a last resort
  • probably many more possibilities here!

But really, the problem and the solution lies fully on management. Those “resistant” staff? That solution’s easy. Assign the work, then monitor it – just like any other part of the job.

Managers – do your job. And write a few blog posts, too, while you’re at it. Model the way for your staff. But do YOUR job, that of managing people and resources, and see what happens.

pic by eflon