Strategy!

This week the focus is on Strategic Planning which I believe is of huge relevance at this particular time. During this time of austerity with more and more budgetary constraints how do we reconcile the Library’s goals and vision in regard to user experience and the high levels of new technology and innovation with the fact that there is going to be less money. In regard to even building a strategic plan, are we wasting time and resources to create a document that will not be relevant for more than a couple of years? Is a strategic plan necessary?

I believe that a strategic plan is necessary and is important to set out the goals and visions of the library. I agree with Dr. Steve Matthews thoughts on his blog the 21st Century Library Blog that if done correctly the plan will prevent a waste of resources. However, time is also a resource and spending arduous amounts of time compiling a plan that will sit on a shelf to gather dust or in the case of the article by Mott Linn, spending time to take part in a process that did not even result in a strategic plan is extremely wasteful. Stephan cites Brown and Gonzalez as saying, “if libraries and other organisations create realistic plans in a realistic amount of time, plans can be very relevant.” I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I believe that although there are significant changes that need to be addressed over time we can look at the Brown University Strategic Plan Update as a good model of building on previous plans and making changes when necessary. Dr. Steve Matthews provides us with a model of a strategic plan and I find that this would be very helpful, whether the plan is intended to be general or more complex.

Other issues that occur in relation to strategic planning are implementation and reacting to change. Obviously, there is no point to having a plan unless it is meant to be implemented. However, as Linn mentions, “there is need for balance between the need for having a strategy and being hamstrung by a detailed strategic plan.” There has to be room for movement and this is where I believe strategic management and strategic thinking become critical. As Dr. Matthews points out, sometimes library boards and directors can be so far removed from change and so focused on original missions that they do not realise that these missions no longer suit the market and the context. There has to a level of strategic thinking that fills the gaps that strategic planning may not have envisaged. There are inevitably going to be changes in human behaviour and interest and also changes in technology that must be allowed consideration. As we see in Fairholm’s article strategic planning is specific where thinking is broad. He shows that thinking involves “understanding of human motivations, formal and informal organizational values, culture, and inter- and intra-organisational relationships……..It focuses on relationships, leverage points and outcome measures of success rather than concrete milestones, step by step procedures and statistical reports.” Thinking takes into account the values and purpose people need to feel and not just the set goals. He claims, “strategic planning works on the skin and bones: strategic thinking works on the organisational soul.”

Strategic thinking sees and understands that things change. This is absolutely necessary for a company, or library, or any other organisation to move forward. Dr. Matthews uses the metaphor that a strategic plan is like a road map to your vision of where you want your library to be. I would argue that without strategic thinking this road map is like an old, out of date sat-nav that doesn’t recognise there is a new motorway to your destination. Plans are excellent tools when used correctly and in context depending on the need of your library. However, there has to be scope to change, plans cannot be too focused and rigid, they must be subject to experimentation and change to allow a library to be successful.

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One thought on “Strategy!

  1. I think given the current economic climate having at the very least a vision and goal for your library is essential, even if a really detailed plan is going to be out of date in a few years as you point out. It can be used as good marketing toll, as pointed out in one of the papers (I can’t remember which one as it’s late and I’m too tired). I think this is something we as graduates will really need to keep in mind.

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