UW Libraries Blog

March 15, 2019

Strategic progress, and some waiting

Jason Sokoloff

Where developing the Strategic Plan was something of an exercise in visioning of an ideal state, implementation has proven to be more of a reality check. Where I had assumed the transition between development and implementation would be a simple baton pass, I have instead come to better understand the oft-repeated business trope: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Six months into our new planning cycle, I observe that UW Libraries sustains a culture of waiting: top-level administrators waiting to hear from their directorates; staff waiting to hear from leadership; campus liaisons waiting to hear from external stakeholders; waiting for new hires, new programs, new resources… Unquestionably there are benefits to a “waiting” approach that connotes patience, caution and certainty. But I’m still waiting for someone to grab this baton!

Tempering my personal tendency toward impatience, I can report a significant amount of good work on advancing our strategic goals:

  • Some level of strategic goal-setting has happened in nearly every area of the Libraries, including Research & Learning Services, Distinctive Collections, Administrative Services, Collections & Content, the Health Sciences Library, UW Bothell, UW Tacoma and various tri-campus committees.
  • Libraries Cabinet has prioritized near-term goals related to IT infrastructure, communication and equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • All Libraries portfolios are in the process of articulating near-term strategic actions to achieve in 2019.
  • Across the organization, we are pursuing opportunities to insert strategic-goal language into accountability documentation like project proposals, performance evaluations and annual reports.
  • Cabinet will build out specific actions with definitive leads, milestones, timelines and success measures—and will establish new channels to sustain communication on our progress.

As much as has been happening, I still feel like we could do more. My amateur organizational-behaviorist perspective is that we haven’t yet completely embraced our aspirations toward becoming a learning organization, one that continuously transforms itself and values exploration, experimentation and even failure in the face of a waiting culture.