For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
November 17, 2004 - Change Management
The beautiful thing about ignorance is that everything is so simple.
You can spin out love advice to people you've just met. You can consult for somebody else's company, and whip up a detailed long range plan after just a couple of meetings.
Why? Because you don't have time to know ... all the little things.
Sometimes that means you actually do give good advice. You aren't distracted by things that may seem pressing, but really aren't important. That lets you see to the heart of an issue.
Of course, when it comes to your own life or business, things just aren't that obvious.
Why not? Well, it could be that those unimportant but pressing things have confused you, clouded your vision. You have no objectivity.
More likely, though, it's as as H. L. Mencken once said: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Some problems are complex.
I've been reflecting on this since giving a presentation back at my home town library, a town I haven't lived in for over 30 years. The topic was "change management."
Obviously, I'm not up to speed on everything that's gone on at that library since 3 decades ago. But I did an honest and thorough job of research about the topic before my talk.
Here's the main insight of the experts: the greatest single resistance to organizational change is the resistance of staff. I even ran across a pseudo-mathematical formula: D x V x F > R. It means that Dissatisfaction (with the way things are) times a Vision (of something different) times First steps (to get people moving) is greater than Resistance.
Why do people resist change? Most frequently, because they haven't been consulted or informed. They want to know why. They want to know when and how. They want to know who is supposed to do what.
So many people fear change. That falls into distinct categories, too: they fear a loss of status or power, they fear some other loss in the pattern of their relationships with other people, they fear that the cost of change (learning new things, having to work with new tools or co-workers) is greater than the benefit. They don't want to feel foolish or incompetent. No one does.
What can managers do to make change easier? The experts say:
* communicate. This is key. Start by asking what your staff thinks should change. Understand and be able to articulate why change is necessary, and where the organization needs to go. Don't tell people how. Let them figure it out, and thereby take ownership of change.
* encourage staff to take risks. Change happens when people try something new!
* minimize the risk of failure. But everything new doesn't work. If people are punished for taking risks, then everybody gets cautious. Don't say, "You failed!" Say, "THAT was interesting! What did you learn?"
* seek changes compatible with the past in important ways. That might mean gradual changes in procedure or techniques. But more important is to stay focused on core institutional values.
* seek buy-in not only within an organization, but around it.
* recognize success. When things work out well, celebrate.
It all seems so ... simple.
Or as I asked my colleagues in Illinois, "Remember the good old days, when nothing changed?"