Tag Archives: Strategic Planning

Lynda Gratton: Competition or Collaboration?

I was up late a few nights ago because (I don’t know if you know this) my pregnant girlfriend has a bladder the size of a pea. I guess carrying around little Bostelle 2.0 tends to squish up all the other organs. Any way, she needs to get up every hour or so, and since I’m kind of a light sleeper, I get up when she gets up.

Occasionally, this means I can’t get back to sleep. Such was the case the other night. I don’t even remember which night this was because they are all sort of blending together in one long blur of sleeplessness. Usually when I get up early like this, I work on research and listen to the BBC world service via KUOW (94.9 in Tacoma). Well, the other night I was sort of drifting in and out of consciousness and there was a fascinating interview on the Beeb with a woman named Linda Gratin. She was talking about the importance of collaboration as the new model for businesses and made some key comparisons between this new model of cooperation versus the old model of competition. Going so far as to suggest that competitive people should be fired if they can’t learn to cooperate!

So, I googled her… nothing. I tried looking her up on the BBC web site… nothing. Linda Gratin where are you???

Turns out her name is Lynda Gratton and she’s quite well known in the business world, if only you know how to spell her name. Ah the joy of analog technology: too bad the FM signal can’t beam an RSS feed to my news aggregator. Anyway, after looking her up in Proquest and checking out some of her articles, I’m really intrigued by what she has to say.

The article I’m currently reading is called “Building bridges for success” (UW Restricted Link) and was originally published in the Financial Times. London (UK): Jun 29, 2007. In that article she outlines some of her basic ideas about the importance of collaboration on innovation, leadership’s role in creating a collaborative environment, formal and informal collaboration, and the importance of stamping out competition.

What’s shocking about this article is its relevance to strategic planning here on campus and in the library. One of the things that I think most people identified as a problem on campus was the idea of “siloing:” where units were working in competition for resources. According to Lynda Gratton, this environment stifles innovation and fosters mistrust.  Well, of course it does… especially in academia.

I’ve seen this in action in myriad ways but I’ll give you a sports analogy if you’ll indulge me: football (soccer to some of you). On a football team, the most important aspect of the game is cooperation. To the layman, it looks like attacking players only attack and defending players only defend. In the past this was more or less true, but there was a revolution in football in the 70’s when the Dutch national team, led by their charismatic and one of the most talented individual players ever (Johan Cruyff), popularized something called “total football.” In some ways, Total Football was a response to Cruyff’s insistence on being all places at all times, it was heavily reliant on one, very competitive man and his desire to do all things on the pitch. But what grew out of that was something collaborative, beautiful, and one in which all the parts worked seamlessly together to form a whole. Defenders were no longer relegated to defense; if the attack required a player to come down the wing, anyone could do it.

Today, my favorite team (Arsenal) plays a faster paced more expansive version of the same concept and they do it without the benefit of a real superstar (their best player is a 20 year old). Their movement and reliance on each other to pick up when someone else has moved into a different position is universally recognized as some of the most beautiful football ever played. And no I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan. Arsenal, in many ways, epitomizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration.  They make hundreds of passes in a game where even a great team makes dozens, everyone is constantly in motion, supporting the attack, defending from the front, covering, and always looking for their teammate.

No, it’s not perfect (Arsenal are currently in third place and have no real hope for a trophy) but the team they have built, the innovation that they are laying down for future footballers, and the trust that they all have for each other is truly special to watch.  And yes, I am saying THAT as a fan, but I’d bet most football fans would agree.

Now, I’m by no means suggesting that that environment of “siloing” and internal competition still exists here at UWT or in the library. Rather, let me suggest something different, a more positive approach if you will; that those of us interested in innovation make sure that we are reaching out to others across campus, building diverse teams for our projects, and creating collaborative efforts. I think that if we (continue to) do that then we could turn UWT into what Lynda Gratton calls a “Hot Spot” for innovation.

And that would be real cool if you ask me!

Until tomorrow, Cheers.



Filed under Building planning, Strategic Planning, Technology Pulse

Tuesday meetings

Good morning.  Looks like we’re in for a 2 hour staff meeting today.  Sort of a kickoff for the Strategic Planning/New Building Programming task that the Strategic Planning Team has been assigned.

One of the key elements to that process is to have every staff person list all of the services that they provide; to the public, to the students, and to other staff.  In the interest of full disclosure, here’s my list:

  1. Technology Support: Staff, Faculty, Public — throughout the day, every day, I am called upon to answer questions both large and small relating to how to do something with our current technology.  This includes but is not limited to; supporting the databases, supporting the print system, supporting the Office software, telephony, Web page management, Web page creation, and all other manner of technology from esoteric to the real.
  2. Technology planning: Staff, Faculty, Public — from time to time I am called upon, or set myself to, planning for the technological future of the UWT Library.  This task can be anything from advising library staff on where to put an Ethernet outlet to coordinating the installation and upgrade of the library wireless network.  Hey! Strategic planning fits here!
  3. Training: Staff, Faculty, Public — from time to time I provide training sessions on various technologies.  I have provided these training sessions for all users on campus, from a session on securing your home PC for the campus, to helping librarians with their training and information sessions.  I also train all library staff on all aspects of library information technology.
  4. Disseminate information: Staff, Faculty, Public — often I am called upon to pass along or re-interpret information.  This service ranges from simply helping staff to understand what it means that the “east coast backbone is down” to some of the things in this blog, like understanding technology advancements.
  5. Basic technology maintenance: Staff, Faculty, Public — often I must repair, troubleshoot, and do software and hardware maintenance on all of the library’s information technology infrastructure.

Ok, so that’s the kind of list the strategic planning team needs.  The team feels like the library needs an inventory of all the services we are providing as that will be the only way to know what kinds of services we will be able to provide in the new building and thus, in the future.

See you library folk at 1pm!

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thank god it’s Tuesday

Good morning!

So far everything in the new house is still in massive disarray and on days like today I get up at 5 drive to the old house, make coffee, jog, take a shower and get dressed for work and drive here. I should have time to sort some stuff out tonight though because the cable company is coming this afternoon and that usually means sitting around and waiting for someone to show up for 5 hours. But the new house is great and I’ll let you know when the house/baby warming party happens.

Ok, on to the work-related news. First, there’s a very very cool debate going on right now on the New York Times “Bits” section. It’s titled Bits Debate: Is Copy Protection Needed or Futile? What’s really special about this is that there are two very knowledgeable people discussing and debating a very sensitive topic in an intelligent and thoughtful manner.  What’s really missing is any discussion of the “third way” that libraries offer.  In fact, on Monday there isn’t a single mention of “libraries.”  You can add a question for the moderator to ask the two guys by going to the main debate page and simply adding your question into the “comments.”  Now, get to it y’all!

Are you sick and tired of hours of endless tee-shirt folding?  Now, you can fold a tee-shirt in just two seconds flat!  Here’s how.  Can anyone tell me where this technique originated? Here’s a hint, it’s all about mathmatics and folds.

Finally, yesterday the strategic planning team met with Renee Nyberg (UWTs HR/OD Manager) and she laid out a pretty workable process and timeline for the strategic plan.  I’m pretty excited about this but don’t want to let any cats out of any bags until the Strategic Planning committee has a chance to meet and approve the process.

Ok, that’s your lot for now. Check back later for updates and other tech news.


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