KM Today

Hierarchy has its place

Jane and Stephen are hosting the Symposium on “Building the Engaged Flat Army for the Library” tomorrow at the iSchool @ University of Toronto. I’m honoured to be talking about organization structures – and will miss Ken Haycock joining me. Next time Ken. The slides I’m using are below.

‘Flattening’ an organization isn’t so much about ‘pushing down’ as it is about ‘pulling up'; a large management team does, indeed, pulls ‘layers’ closer together. I’m not sure why some people equate a small management team with a flat organization — it is definitely more of a pyramid to me. The more people around decision-making tables, the more insights, the more communication, the more understanding. Hierarchy has its place. It identifies who’s responsible – and, most importantly, who is accountable for what. There’s nothing like clarity to allow everyone to see the full picture.

Does hierarchy always work? nope. Does any organization structure or design always work? nope. You can have the best intentioned organization design and yet have a total disaster. It can be flat as a pancake and still be non-collaborative with the worst collegiality you’ve ever seen. Why? Because organizations are about people working together towards a shared goal. That sounds rather motherhoody, but it is true. Organizations need people with different roles, and some of those roles are to make decisions that have broad implications, and to be accountable. If you want to call the people in those roles managers, that’s fine. And one thing those managers have to do is manage the relationships and the processes in between the boxes or circles on the organization design. And if people in the organization want those relationships and processes to work — if they all want to get to that common goal — then they will. A clear organization design does have columns. Those columns don’t have to be ‘silos’, and it is up to the managers to ensure that they DON’T become silos. Cross-functional are cross-communication are mandatory for all organization structures to be successful, no matter how flat, round or triangle.

Value = Where Data Meets Story!

BrandonThe 18th Internet Librarian kicked off this morning with inspiring and insightful keynote speaker  Brendan Howley who gave the audience a lot to think about as they drive their own destinies.  A well traveled, trained investigative journalist and digital content strategist, Howley had lots of great tips for libraries about storytelling to share their value in their communities.  Here are some quick quotes: “Where data meets story is where value is.” “Libraries are in the business of growing communities around them.” “Design stories with the end in mind; people will trust you and continue to share the story.” “Share the why of the how of what you do.”  “Community members want to co-create value.” “Values, what you stand for, are important and are the why of how you win the attention of your community.”  “Libraries are in the cultural context business; they are i the business of giving away context.” “Libraries are pegged to the cultural vibrancy of communities.”  “Libraries are the cultural triggers that activate networks; networks share values and bridge people, build relationships.”

Brendan recommended the book, A Pattern Language, for libraries planning physical changes but also for  UX and web interface folks.  He talked about iBeacons which he thinks libraries will take advantage of a lot in the near future to help build open media ecosystems!  Trusted open media ecosystems made up of local community news rooms.  Exciting to think about!

Continuous Innovation & Transformation

Steve Denning

Steve Denning

Steve Denning is a wonderful, prolific writer and speaker.  I was just reading his recent piece, Capitalism’s Future is Already Here, a Harvard Business Review blog post.  A good read.  Below is the part I think we really need to pay attention to:

“The other economy—the Creative Economy—is an economy of continuous innovation and transformation. This is the economy of firms and entrepreneurs that are delivering to customers what they are coming to expect, namely, “better, faster, cheaper, smaller, lighter, more convenient, and more personalized.” The Creative Economy is still relatively small but it is growing rapidly and, when implemented well, is highly profitable. It is the economy of the future. It doesn’t have to be invented: it’s already under way. Its practices represent a paradigm shift in the strict sense  laid down by Thomas Kuhn: it’s a different way of thinking, speaking, and acting in the world.

The shift from the Traditional Economy to the Creative Economy isn’t just a technical wrangle about economics or management theory. It’s a shift in what society demands of the managers of its most powerful institutions: from narrow definitions of their owners and decisions that serve their short-term interests, to broad acceptance of the responsibility that comes with power and leadership concerned with what is best for society. In the shift, we are learning that an argument about the proper activities of managers can be logical, can be strongly argued, can influence decades of practice in the world’s largest corporations – and can still be plain, flat, dead wrong.”

Perfect timing for an event the University of Toronto iSchool is planning — Building an Engaged Flat Army for Libraries — which discusses building startup or entrepreneurial thinking, looks at new organizational structures for creating “continuous innovation and transformation” as Denning calls it, building competencies for the future, fostering collaborative cultures, sparking innovative cultures and practices, and lots more!  Join the conversation on November 13-14 and get a jump on creating culture of continuous innovation & transformation.

CBC's CheckUp on Public Libraries

If you missed CBC’s Peter Mansbridge with Ken Roberts discussing Canada’s public libraries in the digital environment, here it is:


Advice for Advancing Agendas!

steeleGreat article containing very practical advice for libraries (and others) who want to push their agendas!  It’s from a retired politician who actually wrote a book about his experience!  From  former Nova Scotia finance minister Graham Steele, author of, What I Learned about Politics,  Here’s a review of the book.  But here is his specific advice.  Let me know if you try it and if it works for you.  Be tough.  Don’t be too nice.  Just do it!

“None of you should talk to a politician about anything that matters without knowing what the escape hatches are,” said Steele. “The escape hatches are the rhetorical devices that politicians learn to avoid dealing with the real issue.”

Steele used an example of an escape hatch he used as finance minister when he was on a tour called Back to Balance.

During the tour, Steele spoke with Denise Corey, who is now the chief librarian for Cumberland Public Libraries. Corey was also at Steele’s visit at the Wandlyn Inn.

“Denise was at the session and she said she spoke to me about libraries at the meeting and I have no recollection of it,” said Steele.

Steele asked Corey what he said to her at the Back to Balance meeting.

“What I said is what every politician says, ‘I love libraries.’”

He also said he would look into her concerns.

“To Denise that sounds reasonable, ‘Ok, I talked to the minister of finance and he said he’ll look at it.’”

Steele used an escape hatch to avoid Corey.

“Don’t put up with politicians telling you stories about how much they love libraries and how much they loved going to the library when they were a kid, and they take their kids to the library all the time. You’ve heard all that before. That means nothing,” said Steele.

“Which is exactly what you said to me,” said Corey as the room burst into laughter.

He says people need to pin politicians down.

“One of the most effective tools when dealing with a politician is to say, ‘Oh, I see what you’re doing,’ and then you name the escape hatch, and say, ‘How about if we not do that. Now lets get back to the real issue,’” said Steele.

Most people are too polite to their politicians.

“Don’t misunderstand me, you don’t have to be rude. You can be tough at the same time you’re polite.”

He said people need to force their MLA to give a plan of action.

“Usually what the MLA says is, ‘I’ll take it to the minister,’ which sounds reasonable. What they’re giving to you is nothing.”

And don’t let politicians off the hook.

“What you need to do are say things like, ‘Ok, will you come with us to a meeting with the minister?’ MLA’s hate that,” said Steele.

You can also ask your MLA to put their support in writing and ask for a copy of the letter.

“It’s all about not letting people wriggle off the hook.”

Digital Strategies: What stage are you at?

LibraryLeadersLogountitled   Mike Ridley & I are getting ready to facilitate the Library Leader’s Digital Strategy Summit held in conjunction with Internet Librarian in Monterey, October 27 – 28, 2014.

The beauty of co-locating the Summit with the IL Conference is that those participating in the small, intensive Summit have the keynote speakers for one-on-one sessions that are always relaxed and incredibly insightful.  Having heard the keynote presentation, those in the Summit engage on a much deeper level with Brendan Howley and Nina Simon about digital worlds and radical transformations.

Peter Morville is not only joining the Summit again this year to lead the discussion about the drivers of digital strategy he’s also equipping participants with copies of his latest brilliant work: Intertwindled – Information Changes Everything.  Mike purchased the digital version of the text, so I’m not sure how Peter will autograph it, but knowing his way around the digital environment, he’ll find a way.

Based on feedback from last year’s session the Summit has more time built in for participants to discuss issues and possibilities in small targeted groups, and to further explore the concepts of strategy and strategy mapping.  We thought those unable to participate in the Summit might be interested in the “Summit Pre-thinking” provided to those attending.  The following videos, blog posts and articles are intended to kickstart participants’ reflections and conversations regarding the digital strategies they are developing and implementing: Here’s a few  videos, posts and articles selected to prompt your thinking: One of the issues we’ll discuss up front is that of strategy and, of course, digital strategy, and then later on we’ll look at strategy mapping as a tool you may want to consider.  Here’s 3 short videos:

  1. “Why is it important to have a strategy?” encapsulates the basic purpose of strategy.
  2. 3 Mistakes you’re Making with Your Digital Strategy”     Many of the people discussing digital strategy are in marketing or web businesses.  Don’t let this put you off this video; every time he refers to a “marketing” or “business”, replace his terms with “library”. It gives us a different perspective.
  3.  “Strategy Mapping: Why is it so effective?”   gives a very quick overview of what strategy mapping is and how organizations use it to focus their thinking and their implementation.

Blog posts, a report and an article:

Singapore’s National Library has discussed and written about their digital strategy, providing some interesting insights.

The 2014 Report on Digital Transformation highlights how organizations are “leveraging digital transformation to become more customer-centric, more human, and renewing their culture for a new generation of customers and employees.”  Libraries can definitely benefit from the processes identified here.

Plus, once again, David Weinberger provides a provocative and interesting twist on digital strategy in “Let the Future Go” in September 22, 2014 Digital Shift. 


Even if you can’t participate in the Summit, let us know what ideas, issues and strategies these items prompt – or provoke – for you.

Inspiration & Creative Making

Creative Making brainstorming at U of T iSchool Oct 2014

Creative Making brainstorming at U of T iSchool Oct 2014

Another wonderfully inspiring Creative Making symposium at the University of Toronto iSchool, including a tour of their Critical Making Lab!  Last year our Creative Making event featured many practitioners from the US since it was a relatively new focus for Canadian libraries.  Here were some comments from last year’s program.  My epiphany that day was around the links between knowledge management and public libraries, something that had not occurred to me before.  Sue Considene from Fayetteville PL talked about their FabLab and her concept of the library as a platform for all types of learning (an opinion I have long held too!).  Their FabLab uses community experts to come in as a “maker or artist in residence”.  This made me think of expertise location which is critical in any knowledge management program and that led me to think that public libraries really need to mine their communities for experts that might be willing to share/teach/help others create in our libraries!  And also for partners to support the program in many different ways!

This year’s program featured a number of exciting makerspaces and programs in Canadian libraries.  There were great presentations (thanks to all the fabulous speakers!) and discussions.  Here are some of the insights from the attendees today:

* things to do when we get back: use fresh eyes to look at our existing space (one attendee had already identified a space to be repurposed!); start small with things like Little Bits or Makey Makey (my fav is the banana piano); sharing among our branches or consortium (move equipment around); inventory what in fact we already have (several attendees immediately identified things like a button maker that staff used, by why not let library members to as well?); start conversations with other community organizations/facilities such as art galleries, scouts & guides; mine the resources in our community.

* really liked:  focused marketing (Edmonton Public Library focuses on youth); whimsy & humor (Libraries are fun!); library partnership with members so that some programs and services are user determined; flexible spaces & furniture (putting castors on shelves so they can be moved for open spaces);  involving all level of library members so that multi-department staff collaborate.

These are just a few of the ideas shared that I was able to grab!  Thanks for a great two days all!

And my epiphany from today?  Several of our attendees were from a large international enterprise which has learning and innovation departments — the library is interested in perhaps building a space to enhance innovation and creativity in their organization.  Fantastic!  I was mentioning to them that the SF Airport just opened this kind of space.  I think this is an area to think about and start more conversations and perhaps next year we’ll have a program at KMWorld (where learning, knowledge sharing & transfer, as well as innovation are all hot topics!) or other events.


Innovation Labs & Centers



Today’s Google Doodle reminded me that we’re now into the intensive fall conference and event season!  A busy time as well all want to grab the latest thoughts, ideas and practices.  Innovate, change or die seems to be the current philosophy.  In Toronto, D&J in conjunction with the University of Toronto iSchool are hosting a Creative Making Sympsoium which is discuss makerspaces, idea and innovation labs as well as fablabs.  In Monterey CA, we will be participating at Internet Librarian and the Digital Strategy Summit.  At Internet Librarian, there is a whole day of sessions around the topics of innovation, makerspace & digital trends on Wed Oct 29th that Matt Hamilton will be moderating.  And if you are travelling through San Francisco airport on the way to Internet Librarian, you need to check out their new innovation and collaboration space, #converge@flySFO which opened this past weekend!

“Adding a space for innovation and collaboration at an airport — especially an airport in a city where the mayor is focused on it being a hub for innovation — just made sense, said Doug Yakel, public information officer for SFO, noting that airport officials hope this space resonates with tech-savvy travelers and innovators who pass through.

The 850-square-foot space is free and equipped with tables, lounge-style chairs, power outlets, free Wi-Fi and a giant erasable white board with markers. #Converge@flySFO is located in the International Terminal — a location that allows travelers to get together without having to go through the security screening process again, which is one of the main reasons it was chosen.”  Check it out and join us at Internet Librarian & the Digital Strategy Summit!

No Strategy is Perfect!

sinkholeRebecca and I deal a lot with strategy in our business and this article, Where are the Sinkholes in Your Strategyfrom one of my favorites, Strategy + Business,  really resonated with me.  Here are some quotes, but do check out the entire article.

“My firm was once asked by a CEO to assess the strategy of his company, one of the world’s largest. He wanted to know if there were any holes that he and his board should address. I’ve always thought this showed great leadership and confidence. (Strategy is a lot like IQ for many people: to challenge their strategy is to question their intelligence.) It also revealed his keen awareness that no strategy is perfect.

We started by asking two questions:

1. What distinctive capabilities make the company better than any other at how it adds value to its individual businesses, and how those businesses meet their promises to customers?

2. Are changes happening in the company’s world that could render its distinctive capabilities obsolete or insufficient?”

Rebecca and I have written a lot about value and you can see most of our posts here. But the one thing we encourage our clients to think about is their impact on their clients’ clients — not those you see day to day, but the the clients of those people.  It’s a great exercise as is scenario planning like question 2 above suggests.  It means you have to be aware of your environment and spend some time looking at different possibilities.

“When company leaders understand their defining capabilities, they can make smarter decisions about what businesses to buy and sell, which markets to enter and exit, what customers to target and value propositions to promise, how to prioritize new product development and costs, where to invest, and all the other choices that are inherent in sustaining a great company.”

“There are a handful of leaders who successfully managed the obsolescence of their capabilities, and in the process breathed new life into their companies. Andy Grove famously pivoted Intel from a memory-chip company to a smart -chip company, Lou Gerstner turned IBM from a hardware OEM to an IT services provider, and Phil Knight transformed Nike from a sneaker company to a sports licensing company.”

Can those in the information and learning industries manage the obsolesce of their capabilities?  Libraries, publishers, educators?  Technology, and other lifestyle factors, are definitely changing and having an impact.  Are we ready?

Most strategies have sinkholes. Some are obvious; you just need to know what you are looking for. Others develop more slowly, becoming apparent only when it’s too late. The former often come from confusing “strategy” with vision, mission, and purpose statements, or with plans and goals. Companies that suffer from this confusion usually have little to say about that first question above. The latter arise from ignoring the second question until it’s too late. These sinkholes result in strategies that are too static relative to the pace of change in most companies—where the ever-evolving world of customers and competitors threatens to make their capabilities obsolete or insufficient.”  Thank you Ken Favaro for this article!

Digital Strategy: A Challenge?

In my opinion, digital strategies are a challenge for all organizations with our fast changing world and even faster changing technology.  Our consumer practices with technology are constantly evolving and we demand the latest and greatest from all those organizations we touch — including libraries!  I am really looking forward to the Digital Strategy Summit taking place Oct 27-8 in Monterey CA co-located with Internet Librarian 2014.  This year’s summit features wonderful & knowledgable speakers including Peter Morville who has a new book  out, Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything.  

Deputy Director, National Library Board, Singapore at IFLA, Lyon 2014

Deputy Director, National Library Board, Singapore at IFLA, Lyon 2014

While at IFLA‘s World Library & Information Congress last month, I heard the Deputy Director, Kia Siang Hock, discuss the digital strategy of the National Library Board of Singapore.  The National Library Board includes one national library, one national archives and 25 public libraries.  Here’s their digital strategy:

* Unlocking the richness of unique Singapore content

* Improving findability through search engine optimization & OneSearch

* Reaching out to digital users at their preferred spaces

* Connecting content for contextual discovery

With 156% mobile penetration in their community/country, they used responsive web design to improve their site and have adopted it as a standard requirement for online services (as well as government services).  They have lots of mobile apps!  The National Library Board’s  focus on contextual discovery stems from the fact that their users collectively contribute 10s of millions of entries per year in many different languages. The National Library Board is using:

  • text analytics to identify related content
  • automatic clustering techniques to handle large data sets
  • open source software

Lessons learned that were shared:

  • start with a proof-of-concept (PoC)
  • established & affordable software in text analytics are available
  • do not simply add more hardware when hitting performance issues
  • beware of the potentially steep learning curve

With their role of connecting people to knowledge, the next steps for the National Library Board are to make it easy for information seekers and  do less searching and more analyzing.