CIL 2011: Thinking Strategically & Critically

Speaker: Rebecca Jones

She’s a librarian who started in corporate libraries and went on to human resources and organizational development. Working in different types of places has given her a perspective on different kinds of thinking.

We have gotten ideas at this conference to take back, but there a people at home who haven’t heard them yet, so you need to plan how you will approach this to not fail.

Strategic planning is not about the document — it’s about engaging people in the planning process so that everyone can see where they are making a difference. What are the implications for everyone? Consultants should not be doing the environmental scan — everyone in the library should be doing that.

Any time we have to do something differently, even if we know it is for good, it is uncomfortable to adjust to it. Viewing situations and solutions strategically will result in different types of decisions. Talking it through with others will suss out new solutions. It is too risky to not think differently in this economy.

Strategic thinking is as much about emotions as it is about finding out what the right questions are. What is the real problem that we are talking about? It is not about being critical. It is about opening up all of the possibilities.

It is our responsibility to have critical optimism. No librarian or library needs to play devil’s advocate. Have some fun planning! If we can’t see a better world, how will our stakeholders and users?

Be flexible and adaptable. Question the status quo — we tend to perpetuate what we already know. Focus on the future and don’t let the past stop you from moving forward. If you are already in a hole, stop digging. Gather the right facts in order to understand what is really happening.

Standing in the future is a planning strategy that has planners talk about the dream they have for the future as if it is in the present. By having all staff involved, you can get a clearer picture of how to get there. Buy-with is more effective than buy-in.

Some people will never like the change. Don’t listen to the 20% who are still whining — pay attention to the 80% who have moved on.

Consider following up with Rotman’s Business Journal for more of this kind of stuff. Also, Seth Goddin, Futures magazine, the Futures conference, Roger Martin’s work on design thinking, and what your community is reading. We have to be listeners. Be self-aware — you need to know what your assumptions are.

Why aren’t we at non-library conferences? We need to be aware of what is happening out there.

CIL 2010: Black Ops Ninja-style Tech Projects

Speakers: Amanda Etches-Johnson, John Blyberg, & Sarah Houghton-Jan

One of the frustrations people have is that there are all sorts of exciting projects you could do, but often they are blocked by things that may be confusing to you. If you’re persistent, you can find ways to get around them.

We need to change the hearts & minds of the stakeholders in order to effectively implement something new. "Because we’ve always done it that way" might be a frustration and source of some amusement, but the reality is that we all have some attachment to established routines and processes. Make sure whatever you implement fits within your institutional strategic plan.

Often you can make changes without anyone noticing, and when they do, it’s already established. Start planning in advance – if you know you want to implement something, get people familiar with the idea or tech before introducing it as something to implement locally. When it’s no longer a foreign or new thing, then they will be more likely to go along with it.

You need to provide a counter-vision for people to latch onto. You need to have a vision that you know will be successful and that people will get behind you on it.

Evidenced-based librarianship requires due diligence. Do a literature search. Ask your colleagues about their experiences. If there is no evidence to support it, do it anyway. Make sure to collect the evidence as you go to share with others.

Try not to step on any toes as you are moving forward on your project (avoid collateral damages). Talk to everyone – you need to know where your project will impact other people, and you don’t know what you don’t know. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A MEETING. You can do this virtually.

What if the thing you want to do isn’t right? Give it a try and fully commit to success, and if it fails, that’s okay. You learn more from failure than from success. Figure out what went wrong and why. Don’t be discouraged.

Timing is everything. It may be too soon, so hang on for a bit and deploy when it’s most effective. No right now doesn’t necessarily no six months from now. Don’t get discouraged with nos.

Project teams can be a force for good. The team needs to buy into the process, and having specific goals/tasks can help.

When do you get buy-in from stakeholders versus just going forward with it? Use your best judgment. You often know when you will get unreasonable resistance, so sometimes it’s okay to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but be ready if it backfires.

Trust yourself. You know what you’re doing.

Know when to quit. Evaluate your situation, and if the returns are diminishing, then it’s time to move on to something else, even if you’ve invested a lot into it already.

Make sure you take care of the infrastructure first. You will have trouble getting stakeholder support for your project if the day-to-day stuff is falling apart. Unless your project is designed to fix infrastructure problems.

Keep some cards hidden. Let people feel like they’ve made suggestions for something (that you’ve already planned to implement) or put off implementing some features unless you or your team have time to do them.

[Sarah recommends drinking heavily, also.]

Update: Sarah has posted a list of the tips, if you would like to consume them unfiltered.