ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 3, March 2003) -

*Fingers and Toes and Elbows Too!*


Tinker Massey
University of South Carolina
Richland County Public Library

Acknowledging that libraries are an information industry providing the best and most efficient information access to the public, is the first step in creating a ripe atmosphere for change to occur. We can learn from the industries who have put so much effort into determining the best managerial systems and most efficient ways to change with the times and new technology. In 1990, Michael Beer, Russell Eisentat and Bert Spector found a combination of steps that allow managers to create real change. Here is my "take" on their "seven steps" as applied to libraries.

First, all the energies must be combined and committed to identify local problems and solutions. We need to clarify the issues at hand and have the staff contribute to meaningful discussions about possible solutions. This can be accomplished in many ways, but working in teams that deal with those particular procedures from beginning to end, tends to promote new ideas and compromises in the change process.

Second, having a shared vision as to the organization and management of the change is a "must." You must follow that with clear and credible communication of the process, being realistic, focused and flexible. Remember, a good communicator must be able to be understood at all levels and be able to understand messages from all those levels too.

Third, identify the leadership. This may not be the regular managers, but someone else in the staff. They will have a stubborn belief that revitalization is key to the necessary change. They can articulate their convictions well and convey their energies to everyone else. One must have the people-skills and organizational know-how to put the vision into "play."

Fourth, focus on results, not activities. Short term achieved goals are far more superior for better productivity than all the little measured activities one could devise. Results-driven change increases productivity in a shorter period. Single activities such as preparations, training and course development take a great deal of time and produce little results. Establishing the goals, setting the wheels in motion and providing proper positive competitiveness allows the goal to be achieved quickly. Giving people immediate feedback and "seen" accomplishments stimulates them into "buying into" the program.

Fifth, start change cycles on the outskirts of the group, then watch it spread everywhere. Trying to change the whole organization at one time is impossible and counterproductive. Instigating change in small groups first tends to give the proper example to the other areas in the organization and soon the change diffuses throughout the rest of the group.

Sixth, give permanence to the success of change through formal policies, systems and structures. Hey, donít lose ground once you have succeeded in getting the staff to "buy into" the change. Make sure those changes stay in place by creating new policy, procedures, or actual changes in the structure of the organization to encompass and acknowledge their existence. Continuous positive improvement is the ultimate long term goal.

Seventh, monitor and adjust strategies in response to other problems. Change leaders must be flexible and adaptive and their plans must be equally strong to endure the alterations needed to maintain a stability through the change process and beyond.

Remember, there are no "quick fixes" or "canned solutions" you can open and heat up. You canít change everything at once, but you can be open to alternate leaders of change within the system. There are many ideas just floating around your staff. Listen to them, recognize them, and utilize them in constructive ways. It takes all of our fingers, toes and elbows working together to get the job done and keep it "happening" for everyone.

Adapted from: Managing change and transition. Boston, Mass. Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

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