Tag Archives: teams

Showcase: The Anatomy Of Libraries

My Mum lives in Gisborne. She doesn’t use the library and won’t write a letter to the editor about the library user-charges in Gisborne because she doesn’t know what she’d say.

I asked Mum why she doesn’t use the library: “I don’t need to.” I asked Mum what would encourage her to use the library: “If they had events or things that may interest me I might go.” Now I know the library has lots of things that may interest Mum, but she doesn’t. Or if she does, she’s hasn’t been persuaded to give it a try.

It’s not okay that we (librarians AND community citizens) remain silent because we think someone else will step forward and express our outrage at what is happening in Gisborne.

It’s not okay that we remain silent because everyone should know that libraries are a vital part of a literate society.

It’s not okay that we remain silent because we don’t have the time, energy or resources to fight this battle again.

So, what to do?

Well, for starters I’ve written a letter to the editor in response to the article in the Gisborne Herald. Have you? Why not? And secondly, with a medium-term view, I think libraries (collectively, not individually) need to do things differently when it comes to marketing, communication, public relations and engaging the community.

We need to be memorable. We need to be worth talking about. We need to be visible.

I’ve got lots (and lots) of ideas on how this could be achieved, but here’s my top 3 suggestions:

  1. Wineries organise bus tours as a means of educating anyone who’s interested about their products and the processes involved. Visitors get a behind-the-scenes tour, tastings, and an opportunity to talk with like-minded people. LIANZA regional committees could do something similar (even working in partnership with wineries and delis), perhaps with a different themed selection of libraries each tour. We could have a “bring a friend for free” promotion to encourage readers to bring non-readers.
  2. A day aimed especially at the public attached to the annual LIANZA conference. This builds on the idea I raised in a previous article about the business of libraries. How many non-library users know about APNK, EPIC, AnyQuestions, PapersPast, Interloan, institutional repositories etc. The list is endless of what we could share and I’m sure would attract a lot of interested people, including the media. The format of the day could be based on TedTalks or Pecha Kucha to encourage variety and conversation in short concentrated bursts. We could even put the videos online and reach a wider audience.
  3. A reversal of the second suggestion. A day where the public share their thoughts on libraries, and librarians listen. What if we could get a line-up of library users and non-users to tell us what they like and dislike, or how we could better meet their needs?I did a little experiment on Linkedin where I asked:
    How could libraries (and librarians) reinvent their brand?
    We’re reinventing ourselves all the time to remain relevant and libraries are too. I’m interested in your thoughts on how libraries could improve their brand. ie what business do you think libraries should be in? And the responses were enlightening in their predictability - libraries don’t need a brand, how can you brand a public service, a place to sit and read for an hour or two, and becoming multimedia labs. Imagine if we could crowdsource these problems and potentially create solutions that are beyond our expectations?

Imagine if every taxi-driver, waiter and hairdresser was talking about libraries like in this video below.

Can’t imagine this would ever happen? I can. But, it will never happen if we aren’t willing to try. I’m prepared to give at least one of these suggestions a go and if anyone would like to try it in their library or region, I’d be more than happy to help make it work.

Let’s stop spending so much time talking to ourselves about how great we are, and start sharing it with our community.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 10 August 2011.

Great Customer Service Requires Committed Library Staff

“The customer comes first” is a common adage that espouses the principle of providing a product or service that the customer values, of being customer-focussed. The customer must come first, because they ultimately determine how long you stay in business – they pay the bills, including your wages.

But in order to be customer-focussed and to provide a great customer experience, staff must be equipped, motivated, trained and supported to do so. This, according to Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd, means that staff must come before customers.

One way to assess whether staff are engaged or are able to do great things, is the internationally recognised Gallup Q12 survey. Gallup has undertaken extensive research to identify 12 core questions that can be used to determine the level of employee engagement in comparison to others in the same industry, country or perhaps across teams within an organisation. It is commonly used in New Zealand and perhaps your library also uses it.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Q12, below are the 12 questions that they use.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

These questions graduate from fundamental to aspirational aspects, so questions 1 and 2 should be addressed first or efforts to deal with the remaining ones will be wasted.

Below is a brief overview of how I think these first two questions correlate to libraries.

Do I know what is expected of me at work?This question encompasses the fundamentals of understanding my job description, what hours I work, and what resources I have to do my job. Libraries usually do this well with orientations, and buddy systems for new staff. But what about those staff who may be seconded to positions or take on higher duties on a temporary basis? How would they rate this question?

Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
If it is easier for library staff to get stuff done at home rather than at the library, then responses to this question is where it will show up. Access to youtube, facebook, and twitter is part of everyday work whether we like it or not. Computers that take forever to start-up and use out-of-date software make it even more difficult to be productive and provide stellar customer service.

This question is however not solely related to IT. It could also refer to having enough shelving trolleys so they aren’t overloaded, finding some private space for a meeting, creating purchase orders, getting reimbursements, or finding the latest meeting minutes.

I realise that libraries often have very little control over IT policies, and I’m in no way advocating that these are usurped as there are often valid reasons for such controls. However, I do think it is important to discuss these concerns and the impact they have on delivering great customer service with IT and other stakeholders. Library staff who do work from home in order to get things done, care about providing the best for their customers and should be supported rather than penalised for doing so. Trust staff to do the right thing, and then watch your library flourish.

Customers don’t come first, staff do.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 23 March 2011.

Forget Strategy, Worry About Execution

Developing strategic plans is a common endeavour in many libraries, and one that some libraries struggle to make meaningful.

According to Wikipedia, strategic planning is the formal consideration of an organisation’s future course. All strategic planning deals with at least one of three key questions:

  1. What do we do?
  2. For whom do we do it?
  3. How do we excel?

Many library strategic plans address at least one of these questions. However, it’s not just enough to have a strategy. Harvard Business School research shows that 90% of strategies fail due to poor execution. A Booz & Company survey of more than 1800 executives found that 53% say that the way they create value is not well understood by employees or customers.

In other words, you may be in the same waka together, but if the crew doesn’t know where it’s heading or what they need to do to get there, your waka is unlikely to reach its destination.

Now, I’m not advocating for doing away with your strategic plan. I’m suggesting that the strategic plan should be seen as the focus for your operational plans rather than a separate and distinct product.

As a library manager you’ve probably presented the library’s strategic plan to many groups, including library staff. But how many staff could tell you what the library hopes to achieve at the end of the year?

In order to succeed, a strategic plan requires effective execution which can only really come about through consistent and repeated communication with library staff. For communication to be effective it must incorporate the following:

  1. It must be candid
    Discuss the strategic plan in a straightforward manner. Forget grandstanding and political spin.
  2. It must be clear
    Discuss the strategic plan in ‘plain English’. Make it easy for staff to understand by explaining jargon and management terms.
  3. It must be at the right level of detail
    Explain how the strategic plan will affect the daily work of the people you are communicating with. Discuss priorities and who will be responsible for ensuring these are achieved.
  4. It must be timely
    All work should lead towards the outcomes outlined in the library’s strategic plan. This requires consistent and repetitive meetings with staff – at launch, at monthly meetings, at performance meetings, and at any time where there may be competing priorities.
  5. It must be relevant to the interests and needs of the participants
    Hold department, team and individual meetings, to discuss the strategic plan from these perspectives. Staff always want to know “what does this mean for me?”
  6. It must involve the right people
    The best way to get buy-in from staff is to involve them in developing the strategic plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone attends full day planning sessions. It could mean you use the whiteboard in the staff room to ask for and collate suggestions. It could mean that attendance is voluntary (which may in itself reveal some surprises!). Or it could mean that strategic ideas are voted on at staff meetings. Not everyone needs to be involved, but everyone should be able to be involved, in some way, if they wish to. To make good decisions you must seek the perspectives of a wide range of people.
  7. It must ensure mutual understanding of content and conclusion
    Remember, the strategic plan and its execution should be a discussion or conversation rather than a presentation or an email attachment.

Here’s an example of how I have seen a strategic plan effectively communicated. Within the first week of my joining a company I attended a staff meeting to learn about the company’s strategic plan. It took just 15 minutes and included repeated repetition of key focus areas. At each subsequent monthly staff meeting, the company’s progress towards meeting these outcomes was highlighted with specific mention to significant outcomes. Once again it took just 15 minutes. Team and individual performance meetings all centred on contributions towards the strategic plan. I may not have known the details of the strategic plan (I never saw a written document), but I certainly knew what I was expected to achieve, what was expected of my team, and what was important to the company.

What suggestions do you have to make your strategic plan more than just a document that is difficult to find or remember?

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 24 February 2011.

Homai te pakipaki

“Homai te pakipaki” literally translates from Maori as “give the clap”. It is a phrase frequently used by the host to encourage the audience to show their appreciation for a guest speaker by giving them a round of applause.

I stumbled upon three recent blog posts that in my opinion deserve a round of applause. They each provide an insight into how treating staff as people not as resources, can improve business performance.

1. Unlimited paid leave, no strings attached
Studies have long shown that — believe it or not — such flexibility actually makes workers more productive and engaged. Now that would be worth celebrating don’t you think?

2. Workers of the world, innovate
Not a new idea by any means. Imagine how an Innovation Idol could improve your business.

3. Why a happy employee is a productive employee 
 iOpener examined how much time employees spent “on task.” For happy workers, it was 80 percent of the workweek. For unhappy workers, it was just 40 percent.

In today’s competitive marketplace your staff are your only sustainable competitive advantage. Each and every one of us wants to be heard and valued. What are you doing to enable that to happen?

The Currency of Appreciation

A recent article (pdf) in New Zealand Management magazine advocates the benefits of showing appreciation in engaging and motivating employees. In not-for-profit organisations run by volunteer members, showing appreciation seems like common sense. Unfortunately in the case of an acquaintance of mine, common sense was not that common.

Earlier this year my acquaintance* was appointed in a voluntary specialist role to assist the organisation in raising its profile across the country. She engaged the board in healthy debate about how this could be achieved and went about working towards these goals, producing tangible results within a few months.

Unfortunately, about a month ago, my acquaintance resigned as changes in her full-time paid employment role meant that she was unable to continue her voluntary work. What I was dismayed to learn was that her resignation was only acknowledged by one of the ten board members, and that none of them had acknowledged her achievements. We all know that bad news travels faster than good news and in this case a lack of common courtesy festered anger and resentment.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort or time to praise people for their good work or to have a conversation that conveys appreciation and understanding. Don’t assume that someone else is having that conversation. Do it yourself, whether it’s your role or not.  You never know, it could be the difference between an engaged high performing employee or a disgruntled one. The difference between a long term relationship or a transaction. The difference between business success or disaster.

* some details have been altered to maintain anonymity.