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Strategic thinking in 90 Minutes

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Most people assume that strategic planning involves strategic thinking. Oh…..if only that was true. Unfortunately most organizations view strategic planning as a way to answer the question, “how do we keep doing what we’re doing better – or more effectively – or with higher value?” Too few engage in any strategic thinking. Why? Because strategic thinking is scary….and difficult. To “think” strategically an organization must:

Look beyond environment or market it usually looks at – beyond the borders of its profession or industry for signals of what’s impacting other professions and other industries and other markets….that will send waves up onto the organization’s beach Reframe current assumptions, beliefs, mindsets & situations – and is there anything more difficult than asking if your current and long-held beliefs hold true? Analyze information & data from multiple sources to identify patterns & interpretations Use this information to decide what is valid, what isn’t valid… and, what they must continue to do and not do Determine trade-offs and alliances that will move decisions forward; that’s right – trade-offs; what the organization will hold to and what it can bend on Learn – constantly listening & looking for the good, the bad and the downright ugly – & incorporate what they find into approaches, services & decisions

This is hard work and requires diligence and exercise. An organization doesn’t learn to think strategically overnight.

You can imagine, then, the pains in my stomach when I’m asked to lead a large group of 175 people through

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Did You Know: 2014

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Strategic planning relies on strategic thinking. To think strategically we need to explore beyond our common environment, the usual places we look and the usual way in which we look at. The “Did You Know” series of videos is an excellent tool to use at the beginning of any strategic or planning discussion. And it’s been updated! Have a look – and start your next staff discussion with it:

Strategic Thinking Takes Time

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Jane and I will be focusing on Thinking Strategically and Building the Future at SLA’s Annual Conference on Sunday June 8th. As I think about the points we want to cover, the case study, and questions we’ll use to prompt participants’ discussions and reflection, there’s one issue Jane will have to keep me from harping: strategic thinking takes time, discourse, reflection, and time. Yes, I know I repeated time. And I know I used a no-no word regarding a learning environment: harping. Bear with me. Having been involved in 100+ strategic plans as a facilitator, a manager, a volunteer and a staff member, I know that the factor of time can’t be over-emphasized.

Too often leadership teams, staff and, in the case of public institutions, boards view strategic planning as an activity that can be accomplished in 2 or 3 meetings of a few hours each or a weekend retreat. Yes, so long as they have been preparing for these meetings with deep research, reading, and reflection it is possible for them to make strategic decisions in that time frame. But the sad truth is that management, staff and boards seldom commit the time and energy needed to come to terms with a very uncertain, unfamiliar future. They will review the trends and developments occurring, and probably complete a thorough SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), but will be reluctant to go the next mile (yes, MILE) of doing the strategic thinking by asking, considering and debating, “SoWOT? So

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Innovations bring promise & peril

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Fantastic SLA PH&T Division conference at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, began with Kevin Davies, Chief Editor Bio-IT World and author of The $1,000 Genome (Free Press 2010). He’s an unbelievably engaging, articulate, funny & informed speaker. And he explored the revolution in DNA sequencing technologies, personal genomics and the evolving environment of personalized medicine. Yep. Personalized medicine. Today, for $200, you can spit in a cup & have your DNA screened; this isn’t the detailed DNA sequencing that identifies EVERYTHING about your physiological make-up, but it can identify significant abnormalities in your DNA — such as a man whose screening revealed he had advanced prostate cancer with NO symptoms. Talk about customized — he was able to take the results to his doctor and steps were taken (surgery, cancer treatment) to save his life. As the price point of DNA sequencing continues to drop, how will people handle this information? what’s the impact on the medical system? on the insurance system? Certainly DNA sequencing will help with drug develop, patient stratification and tailoring treatment; it will also raise huge questions regarding how organizations and insurers handle this information. Davies ended with the premise of “the 15 minute genome by 2014”.

Yo. That’s a premise. Holding much promise & peril. Every evolution, revolution & innovation brings promise & peril.

And that’s what struck me as I gave a talk about Thinking Strategically & Critically. As we consider & question our assumptions regarding access and resources, we open up

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Curiosity doesn’t kill cats, or ideas

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I know what great cat curiousity certainly hasn’t killed, or even maimed or slowed down in any fashion. Jane Dysart.

Jane is one curious character (if I called her a “curious cat” it would make me sound like I’m remaking an episode of Dobie Gillis or Ozzie & Harriet. Oh dear, most of you are too young to know that before he was Gilligan, Bob Denver was none other than “Maynard Krebs” – a “beatnik” who referred to cool people as “cool cats” on Dobie Gillis. I digress!)

As I prepare a paper for next week’s OLA Superconference on Strategic & Critical Thinking: Seeing Possibilities, I reflect on Jane’s ability to view situations from a different perspective, largely because she has an incredible sense of curiosity and she’s a risk taker. Curiousity is an important attribute for strategic thinking; strategic thinkers are those who question and explore issues and developments to see where they lead. Coupled with their comfort for risk taking, they will follow these unmarked paths — sometimes to poking about to see what emerges. One of Jane’s favourite sayings is “What’s the worst thing that can happen? If you can live with the worst, then explore it a bit.”

I’m not talking about strategic planning, but rather strategic thinking — which had better be involved in the strategic planning. Without strategic thinking, you aren’t getting the disruptive thinking and fresh paths leading to change — which is, of course, the whole purpose of strategic planning. If

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To see the big picture, you have to look for it

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I’m about to do a webinar for Jane – actually for The Partnership’s Education Institute; this is part of a “Conversations with Leaders” series Jane initiated in which she interviews people about their experiences with particular issues. I certainly don’t consider myself a leader, but I’m fortunate that my business partner (that would be Jane) is and so many of our friends and colleagues are leaders. So do check out this series.

I’m going to talk with Jane about Thinking Strategically: How to See the Big Picture. I’m not being glib when I say to see the big picture, you have to look for it — and you have to want to see it. Seeing situations strategically is about learning, curiousity and questioning. It isn’t analogous to playing chess or war games as many think it is. Those games have predictable outcomes. It is really about purposefully looking at what is going on in the broader context around your job, your department, your library, your community or campus or organization. It’s about identifying and detecting relationships, connections, trends or even non-trends. And it’s about 2 of the scariest questions for organizations, including libraries: Why? and What if?

Most libraries look for the “big picture” when undertaking planning. Well, ok…..better late than never. But to think strategically, scanning needs to occur regularly and really become a habit. As service organizations, Libraries must be keenly aware of what’s impacting their patrons or clients, their stakeholders (a.k.a. decision-makers and impactors), and suppliers. Library

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