Core Competency D: Business
“Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.”
Planning, management, marketing, and advocacy all play crucial roles in the success of library and information organizations; I have learned this theoretically through courses such as LIBR 204 – Information Organizations & Management, as well as in practice through my job as Collections Curator at Sagehen Creek Field Station.
Any worthwhile endeavor begins with a plan. In the LIS field, where business products are often either intangible or in the background, planning helps focus amorphous goals into actionable objectives. Fundamental tactics such as literature reviews, environmental scans, and SWOT analyses can help develop strategic plans and lay groundwork for measurable success.
Once a plan begins to move forward, excellent management is key to maintaining momentum. Yves Morieux, a consultant with BCG, suggests six simple management rules to elevate businesses: “1) understand what other people do, 2) reinforce integrators, 3) increase the total quantity of power, 4) increase reciprocity, 5) extend the shadow of the future, and 6) reward those who cooperate.” These six rules distill the most important aspects of all the other management principles I’ve learned through my coursework at SLIS, and can be effectively applied to the LIS field. Understanding what other people do allows employees to cooperate better, and reinforcing integrators sets up situations for employees to gain this understanding. By giving everyone more power, an institution allows individuals at all levels to reciprocate when others cooperate, and to be rewarded themselves. Finally, extending “the shadow of the future” ensures that employees will be invested in the success of their work.
No work is good work if it fails to reach an audience; marketing is the key that connects work to its users. In their comprehensive text, Management Basics for Information Professionals, Evans & Ward describe marketing as being able to “link the strategic and tactical framework in ways to promote the service,” (p. 110). Strategic frameworks reflect an organization’s overarching approach to its work, while leaving flexibility to respond to unforeseen opportunities. Meanwhile, tactical frameworks drill down on actions to achieve specific objectives. In marketing, an organization uses its strategic framework to tie core values to its service, and a tactical framework outlines how the organization will communicate these values while delivering the service to its audience. Much like planning, marketing requires research to understand users and their needs. Marketing also relies heavily on communication, which is a skill I discuss in depth for Competency L.
The fourth principle, advocacy, refers to publicly supporting and promoting beliefs, products, or causes. Advocacy is often intimately tied to marketing, as organizations support causes with similar core values to those they strive to embody, and to share with their patrons. Advocacy can also be applied on smaller levels: within an organization, for example, staff may advocate to provide services they value on an individual level. I believe this type of individual advocacy is a latent but essential skill to evolve as I grow professionally and develop my own core values.
EVIDENCE 1. In LIBR 204 – Information Organizations & Management, our professor encouraged us to independently explore management principles that intrigued us. For one such assignment, I discovered "self managed working teams (SMWT),” where employees are asked to take on more responsibility and direct their own productivity. Castiglione (2007) found that doing so increases workplace satisfaction and decreases employee turnover (p. 379), both of which indicate a healthy organization. Although libraries are traditionally organized in a hierarchy, SMWTs create a more “flattened” structure. This flattened structure adds to the health of an organization by allowing it to respond to rapid changes (e.g. in technology) and shifting user needs more quickly than a hierarchy can.
In a later assignment for LIBR 204, I was asked to review the professor’s case-study text, Working Together (Somerville, 2008), and relate its content to management themes from the class. I found that SMWT were a prominent strategy used in the library reconstructions that Somerville details. Additionally, Somerville discusses the idea of librarians as “knowledge managers,” rather than “information regulators.” As Knowledge Managers, librarians focus on “systems thinking, problem solving, team building, and information sharing” (Somerville, p. 57) rather than the more mundane tasks of a traditional librarian. Both self managed working teams and knowledge managers are strategies that directly align with Morieux’s principles of management.
EVIDENCE 2. The culminating writing piece I did for LIBR 204 – Information Organizations & Management was to draft my personal management philosophy, which I titled “Bringing Business Sense to Libraries.” In this short paper, I argue that to deal with the pace of innovation, libraries must adopt management techniques more traditionally associated with businesses, which have long led the way in change and innovation. Lateral hierarchies and thinking, as well as evidence-based librarianship and target marketing, are more business-oriented strategies that libraries will do well to incorporate. Like a business, which must rationalize tangible and intangible costs with a bottom line, libraries should use evidence to support service decisions. Although I do not expect to work professionally in libraries, I do anticipate bringing a similar management philosophy to other workplaces, such as museum collections.
EVIDENCE 3. I created this infographic–“Why Digitize Herbaria Specimens?”–for a presentation given to adult students in a California Naturalist intensive course. My infographic categorizes the benefits of digitization by “saves time,” “saves money,” or “increases [collection] value;” I did this to help viewers quickly find the most relevant information to them. By visually showing the in-house and external benefits, I hope to market herbarium digitization to herbaria themselves, parent institutions, and end users.
EVIDENCE 4. My final item of evidence is a short document written to Sagehen Creek Field Station (my employer) advocating a subscription to the American Journal of Botany for the herbarium. Using cost effectiveness and impact factor statistics, I present a compelling case to add this subscription to the budget.
As individual employees are expected to take on more responsibilities and bring more creativity to their jobs, planning, management, marketing, and advocacy are essential business skills for the 21st century. Through coursework at SLIS, as well as my field station job, I understand the fundamentals of these business concepts, and as I move forward into the professional world I look forward to this being a constant area of growth.
Castiglione, J. (2007). Self-managing work teams and their external leadership: A primary for library administrators. Library Management, 28(6), 379-393. doi: 10.1108/01435120710774512
Evans, G.E. & Ward, P.L. (2004). Management basics for information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman.
Somerville, M. (2008). Working together: Collaborative information practices for organizational learning. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Morieux, Y. (Oct. 2013). “As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify” [video]. TED@BCG. Retreived from http://new.ted.com/talks/yves_morieux_as_work_gets_more_complex_6_rules_to_simplify