PVLD operates on a July 1 - June 30 fiscal year, so about now is when we start seriously thinking about what we want to achieve next year and beyond and how those goals will affect our budget. For many years this has meant reviewing and updating, and periodically re-writing, our Strategic Plan.
Back in November I wrote this post about my growing feeling that PVLD may have evolved to a point where a highly structured strategic planning process resulting in a formal Strategic Plan is not only un-necessary, but possibly counter-productive.
As the end point of our most recent three-year Strategic Plan draws ever closer I have been reflecting on how dated it already seems,how little it really guided our decision-making, and how badly we missed the mark on most of the quantitative measures. I don't think that is because it was a bad piece of work. It was written by smart people guided by an excellent consultant based on our best knowledge at the time. I think the problem is that the environment is so turbulent and the pace of change so great (and getting greater) that any attempt to set objectives and goals for anything other than the very near term future (measured in weeks and months, not years) is doomed.
A couple of weeks ago I came across this excellent post on the "Obituary of the 5 Year Strategic Plan" by Lea Blair (via Michael Bungay Stanier's Box of Crayons) and loved her idea that what we really need to to is equip people to run our organization as if they were riding a bike:
"In order to ride a bike you do the following:
1. You pack what you think (best guess) you will need for your bike ride.
2. You know your destination – or at least what you want to see when you get there.
3. You start pedaling in that direction.
4. Most important…You have a short window of time to make a decision on how to successfully navigate what comes in front of you. Especially the surprises. And surprises are one thing we can count on in ever increasing number. Whether it is a child running in front of your bike, or a turn in the road that you didn’t expect, or an oncoming biker. Only at the time when you see the actual change can you make the best decision as to how to navigate your bike."
Let us learn what we can about the future (and pack our bags well). And, if your rider – manager or executive, has the awareness and skills necessary to be able to make those quick navigation decisions with agility and flexibility, your company will wind up at its destination… no matter what changes and surprises happen along the way."
The challenge for libraries (and, I would venture to guess, for almost every type of organization) is that the accelerating pace of change and the unkown but surely profound outcomes of the current technological revolution make it very hard (maybe impossible?) to envision our ultimate destination.
I'm thinking that right now maybe the best we can do is hold on tight to the handlebars, pedal like crazy, and make navigation decisions based on some core touchstone principles like whether a given course of action enhances access to information or restricts it, or whether it makes the library more connected to the community or less so, or whether it meets the test of good stewardship of the public's money.
And maybe the most recent PVLD Strategic Plan will be the last...at least for this Library Director.