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Libraries: Rewiring our Thinking

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My “must” reading for the past 15 years has been Harvard Business Review. About 6 years ago I added Rotman from University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management to the “must” list. To be honest, there’s nothing else on that list. Just these two journals. The articles are often based on solid research, usually incredibly interesting, and frequently force me to think differently. These journals target business and management leaders. Many of the influential stakeholders for libraries in the public, academic, government and profit sectors are business and management leaders. We need to know how they think. And we certainly need to think differently.

Joe Rotman, a highly successful, respected businessman and philanthropist died recently. Roger Martin, renowned management author and thinker, and the 1st dean of the Rotman School, wrote in the Spring 2015 Rotman issue of how Joe Rotman “rewired” Martin’s brain. Given that the library sector is essentially shifting below our feet, it behooves us to consider the 4 fronts on which Rotman changed Martin’s thinking and use these to change our own thinking:

Nothing is Not-doable

There’s 2 parts to this truism: first, that if you want to “do” it, then do it. In 1998 when Martin became dean of Rotman, that management school wasn’t even in the rankings or the radar with its competitors. Joe and Roger envisioned it in the top 5 – which most people thought was crazy – ‘not-doable’ for sure. Yet Joe taught Martin that anything is doable so long as

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Co-dependency of Re-organizing & Re-focusing Libraries

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Credit: keetra dean dixon @ fromkeetra.com

by Valerie Ridgway.

Thank you, Val, for creating this blog post. For those of you who may not know Val, she was formerly Deputy CEO at Pickering Public Library and is an expert in terms of HR practices, policies and management. During the past 15 years she has developed the initial collective agreements for large public libraries, created their staffing competencies and can write role descriptions in her sleep. I’ve had the absolute honour of working with Val on three organizational structuring projects for progressive public libraries who know they must align their organization and roles with their strategies if they ever hope to execute those strategies. In other words, Val knows her stuff, and is delightfully candid, as demonstrated below:

Ongoing reorganization of library staffing structures and relationships is a fact of contemporary life. Or it should be. Libraries embark on new strategies and exciting initiatives, but the restructuring so critical for implementing these is often deferred, diluted, dreaded, distorted, deserted, and with good reason. Employees en masse, in almost all organizations – not just libraries – are inherently conservative: people will agree that change is needed, but when moving from the general to the specific changes for them as individuals, raise objections and barriers. It’s sometimes very difficult for employees to see the “big picture” driving the changes and, most importantly the WIIFM factor, “what’s in it for me”. Let’s face it, even those employees who exclaim “I love change!” only

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Hierarchy has its place

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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

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