Organizational Change in the New Year, Asking Jeeves.

Posted by jlubans on December 29, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

A few days ago we welcomed a new year, and its accompanying chorus of resolutions. Lest we be left resolution-less, here are some direct from the pages of Leading from the Middle.

In Chapter 1, “Balaam’s Ass”, I made reference to the softheaded, kind-hearted Bertie Wooster and to his manservant, Jeeves (he of the eyes “agleam with the light of pure intelligence” and size nine-and-a-quarter hat).
20101229-Jeeves & Wooster-2.jpg

Doing so, I wondered out loud about changing the library:
“What would the all-knowing and demonstrably most effective of effective followers, Jeeves, tell us about moving an organization from reactive to proactive?”

Hearing his name, Jeeves shimmered in.
“Indeed, I am pleased to oblige, sir. Permit me to suggest seven stratagems.”
1. For new hires, stress credentials less, spirit and independent thinking more.
2. Increase integrated decision-making, decrease top-down decisions.
3. Flatten the administration, spread out administrative responsibility.
4. If they are worthy, make clear your organizational values.
5. Experiment more, spend less time in committees contemplating what might go wrong.
6. Use self-managing teams or other constructs that require critical thinking and decision making by followers.
7. Increase staff development budgets to train everyone in soft and hard skills.

“You are a marvel, Jeeves!”
“I endevour to give satisfaction, sir.” And, he trickled off.

Happy 2011

Starred review of Leading from the Middle in Library Journal: "Highly Recommended"

Posted by jlubans on December 15, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

This review appeared in the Nov 1, 2010 Library Journal.

20101217-OrangeReviewStar.gifLubans, John, Jr. “Leading from the Middle,” and Other Contrarian Essays on Library Leadership. ABC-CLIO. (Beta Phi Mu Monograph). 2010. c.192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781598845778. pap. $50. PRO MEDIA
Lubans—leadership and management consultant, teacher, former library administrator, and longtime columnist for Library Leadership & Management—here collects 36 of his essays, “comprehensively revised for currency and relevance.” The essays touch on many aspects of leadership and management, from teams and coaching to quality, productivity, problem solving, communication, and more. All emphasize that democratic organizations and shared leadership are critical for successful organizations and fulfilled, productive employees. He combines anecdotes from his own experience with management research and case studies from outside libraryland (e.g., the airline industry, sports, and music) to show that autonomous, respected staff are more effective and provide better service than those subjected to command-and-control bureaucracies that stifle innovation and morale. Opinionated, engaging, and occasionally funny, Lubans challenges traditions, questions assumptions, and slays several sacred library cows. Many of these essays would be great fodder for discussion in a leadership group or staff meeting. VERDICT This refreshing, thought-provoking collection is highly recommended for library staff at all levels, as well as library school students.—Janet A. Crum, City of Hope Lib., Duarte, CA

Bibliofoon, the initiative

Posted by jlubans on December 14, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

I am revising my Customer Services workshop for use in my Fulbright teaching in Riga and elsewhere. The last time I did this workshop - "To Save the Time of the User: Customer Service in Libraries" -, the workshop could have gone much better so I am revising it from start to finish.

I am adding a problem solving initiative that I have used in classes and workshops to help "break the ice" about group work and to get across the importance of internal and external customers. I call it Bibliofoon, after the Delft Technological University Library's conveyor belt circulation system introduced in 1965. Here is my application of Delft's highly creative and innovative way of getting closed stack books to library users:

The set up, along with the rules.

20101215-pipeline.jpg10 or more sections of "conveyer belt" (split 2” wide plastic chutes, about 16” long, one for each person in the human "conveyor belt.") See the picture.
Balls (generic books) golf balls, pingpong balls, large marbles, etc.
Bucket with which the customer, the user waits for books
Borders marked with tape

Set up:
1. Set the start so that the distance from the boundary marker (the start) to the library user (goal) is 3-5 paces more that the number of participants.
2. One pace for each participant
So, for a group of ten it is 10 paces, with an extra 3-5 paces at end. Increase difficulty by adding a number of paces.
3. Add a dog leg and or obstacle of some sort.
4. Mark the boundaries with tape on floor. Approximate shape.
5. Have group establish their goal: x number of books delivered to user in y minutes.
Variations: A troubleshooter role, a user at receiving end, a quality inspector, a warehouse worker.

Quality Rules
a. Books may never stop rolling - keep those doggies movin'
b. Books cannot roll backward - no one step forward two back
c. Books may not drop on ground - not good conservation
d. Team members may not touch the book after it drops into the first chute - unless wearing latex gloves.
e. Chutes may not touch - no turf encroachment!

Team members (the human conveyor belt from warehouse to reading room) are responsible for enforcing quality rules.
Consequences: If a quality rule is broken, books in the chutes must be returned to the warehouse.
Consistently poor quality will result in the loss of a conveyor belt segment for the cycle.
We'll see how it goes in Europe. Of course, any group who wants to have fun and learn will make it happen. A group that has issues to start with, the end result will probably be diagnostic of their organization's problems.

Honesty, humor, & humility

Posted by jlubans on December 08, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

Juxtapositions: a friend’s sorrow stated ever so matter-of-factly, a Cherokee chief’s tribute to Will Rogers (the writer, performer and actor), and my re-reading one of Will Rogers’ books. These three links led me to think about the concept of honesty - of speaking truthfully - and how we in these modern times, for a multitude of reasons, seem to practice a less than honest, nuanced, version.

I won’t elaborate on my friend’s grief beyond its exceptional honesty.

20101208-will rogers photo.jpgChief Keeler’s tribute to Will Rogers (1879-1935) enumerates his “towering traits (of virtue, honesty, courage and kindness) wrapped as surely in the beads of wisdom as they are painted in the rainbow of virtue.” For Chief Keeler, Will’s attributes were acquired from his family in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and from Will’s part-Cherokee heritage, something that was never far from his mind and often mentioned in his writings.

The book* I was re-reading was about Will Roger’s June 1926 journey into the heart of Revolutionary Russia. It’s a good example of how Rogers, regardless of situation or circumstance, never lost his bearings. He observes and notes – in his unique and rustic (honest) style. He admires the regular people but has less admiration for the new bosses, the several thousand communist mini-czars replacing the Czar. As for the communist ideology, unlike many contemporary visitors with a pre-determined agenda, he tells us what he sees and believes. He gives credit to the former peasants for their common sense; they saw through Marx’s theories, however elaborately and enthusiastically stated. Since they were expected to produce for the proletariat they wanted to know what they would be getting in return. Apparently nothing, beyond the glory of being good Marxists. Will agreed with the farmer’s desire to improve his life and to provide for his family. As we know, Mr. Stalin took care of any doubts, forcing the farmers at gunpoint to deliver their goods, year in and year out.

While Will said that much of the new Russia is “propaganda and blood”, he let us know WE in the USA have a ways to go: “There is as much class distinction in Russia today as there is in Charleston, South Carolina.”

As always, Will brought out the irony: he wondered why the communists were so avidly recruiting others to sign up …”if a thing is so good and working so fine for you, you would kind of want to keep it to yourself…. But the Communist has so many good things he just wants you to join in and help him use some of them.”

His criticism, if it can be called that, in this and other writings - was done in good humor and kindness, never as a rant, never with a mean-spirited word. The most riled up Will ever got was when people insinuated that he was somehow less than they were because of his publicly chewing gum or not tipping his soup bowl. He’d go after those critics with relish, but always with tongue in cheek, always knowing he might be just as foolish as the critic he was skewering. His humility rose above any meanness or umbrage he might be feeling.
There was nothing nuanced – unless humor itself is nuance - about Will’s writings. Our Western culture likes nuance. We admire people who can walk the tightrope of public speaking, shading their words without offending. It’s as if we think nuance is somehow better than direct and honest expression. Well, as Will might have said, it don’t stop there. We mealy-mouth performance evaluations, write disingenuous letters of recommendation, and hand out undeserved promotions and grades. We rationalize shading the truth, we claim, because we not want to damage any one’s self esteem. In truth we pull our punches because we do not want to deal with the uproar for telling it like it is; we do not want to take the kicks that are sure to come our way for being truthful. Nor, do we want to be perceived as un-nuanced, presumably a desirable social trait. Will would get a chuckle out of that.

20101208-Will:bathing suit.jpg*Will Rogers, There’s Not a Bathing Suit in Russia & Other Bare Facts. (Preface by W. W. Keeler, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation.) Stillwater, Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University Press, (1927, original publication date) 1973.

Photo Quiz

Posted by jlubans on December 03, 2010  •  Leave comment (2)

I took this photo back in the Spring hiking the Ice House Trail near Mt. Baldy in California. Several captions run through my mind. What's yours?