Friday, June 19, 2009

OSUL2013: Agile Organizational Development?

Over the past year I have been involved in a grassroots effort to create a roadmap for organizational change at The Ohio State University Libraries, known as OSUL2013. The purpose of the effort is to help the organization adapt to the changing information, educational, and environmental landscapes.

What has been unique about this process is that while it has been supported by library administration it has been entirely motivated and guided by Libraries staff. For their part, the administration has been actively encouraging staff to participate. I have been impressed by the growing participation considering the timing of the initiative coincided with the Library's move back into it's newly renovated building.

The process began with a full-day workshop on April 1, 2008, attended by 35 OSUL faculty and staff, including myself. The primary outcome of that event was the creation of five task forces, which worked through the summer of 2008 to investigate and create reports on the topics of:
Each of the reports define the topic, provides case studies, outlines a Blue Sky vision, and identifies "quick hits." The quick hits were important since they were seen as small scale projects and efforts which could help lead the organization towards each Blue Sky vision.

To continue the process, the task forces recommended an Implementation Phase. This phase began late last fall and concluded at the end of May. The Implementation Phase focused on a handful of quick hit projects projects and was managed by an Implementation Team, on which I served. An Implementation Community (made up of nearly 30 staff volunteers) was created to serve as a very important support unit. They acted as a sounding board and a source of new ideas. Community members were also active participants in several brainstorming sessions. Many also served on project teams.

The Implementation Phase final report (found here) summarizes the process, the projects, and recommended a new group be identified to continuation of the process. It calls for the creation of a working group starting in August '09 and continue through the fiscal year. That group would have several roles:
  • serve as a peer source of information and support for staff and faculty interested in pursuing innovative projects;
  • test and promote an appreciative model for group-based work based on facilitation, encouragement, and constructive feedback;
  • assess the progress toward the goals;
  • propose the next phase of the 2013 process
The activities associated with the next phase of OSUL2013 would be built from five high-level goals:
  • Library as Commons: Provide physical and virtual space for collaboration and communication
  • Empowered Staff and Focused Leadership: Encourage staff and faculty to take initiative to assess and to innovate
  • User-Centered Organization
  • One Library System: Facilitate and encourage communication and collaboration between individuals and units
  • Leadership in Scholarly Communications: Lead innovative efforts in the creation, distribution, and management of scholarship in all formats.
So, what does the title of this post come into play? As I was finishing up this summary I began to realize that the process that we have been unknowingly using could be characterized as being agile organizational development. We have been moving from phase to phase with only a half-baked notion of what we were going to do next. Each phase was an iteration on the previous with mid-process corrections being made based on our experiences and feedback.

While our report recommends that the next phase should last until next June, I have been thinking as I write this that it should last only until the end of the calendar year. We could squeeze two iterative phases in during that time period rather than just one.

Participating in OSUL2013 has been interesting experience for me, considering that I work in the Health Sciences Library which is technically not a part of OSUL. Not only has the OSUL organization embraced my involvement, but HSL leadership has been very supportive and encouraging. I will continue to be involved in the process going forward, but I haven't decided at which level of participation. Sphere: Related Content

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