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Continuous Innovation and Transformation: The Opening Keynote

Steve Denning

Steve Denning

Steve Denning, Author of The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management and similar books was the opening keynote speaker. He presented a superb overview of the changes that have been taking place in managing organizations and how they relate to the conference theme. He noted that there are only 2 kinds of organizations–those that delight their customers and those that don’t. Those that delight their customers are hugely profitable; those that don’t are going out of business.

Devices Replaced by the Smartphone

Devices Replaced by the Smartphone

We may not realize how many changes have occurred and how many devices have been made obsolete by smartphones alone (perhaps 50 of them). Besides devices, many types of organizations have also been radically changed (taxis, TV networks, bookstores, etc.) or even made obsolete (travel agents, physical books, encyclopedias). But what about libraries? Why do we need them? Some people are surprised they still exist.

The computer age is not primarily about computerization; it’s about the change in mindset enabled by computerization. Denning reviewed the two types of management: traditional management and management for the creative economy. We now have self-organization teams dealing directly with customers, and management is a coach. It used to be an internal dynamic, but now customers play a major role. In the old environment, you must follow rules and follow your role. New management is the opposite: horizontal not vertical, and its central role is to delight the customers, which leads to making more money. Everybody has a clear line of sight to the customer; you don’t need a boss to tell you if you are succeeding.

Traditional management cannot cope with the rapid change of the world today. The two worlds are incompatible. Plugging creative teams into a bureaucracy creates friction and is an unstable situation. Traditional management rests on 5 principles which are interlocking (if you change one, the system won’t last):

  1. The purpose of the organization is to produce outputs.Managers control individuals.
  2. Work is coordinated by bureaucracy.
  3. The main value is efficiency.
  4. Managers tell people what to do.

Management in the new economy is almost the exact opposite. The internet created a huge shift from the seller to the buyer.Customers have instant information about choices available to them. These elements are direct opposites of the old way of management:

  1. From outputs to outcomes: delight the clients and stakeholders to add value.
  2. The manager becomes an enabler of self-organizing teams.
  3. Coordination of work shifts to agile iterative methods with short cycles.
    Values shift to continuous improvement and transparency.
  4. Communications shift from telling people what to do to adult-to-adult horizontal conversations.

This transformation is about much more than computerization, and it is happening inexorably. It’s driven by economics and the question is change or die. Here are four reasons why this shift will not be easy:

  1. The shift is a revolution in management mindset. The revolution is leading to vast economic, social, and political change.
  2. This is a fundamental paradigm shift in the way of running organizations. Forward thinkers are recognizing the need for fundamental change.
  3. Partial fixes do not work because they create continuous conflict and friction and do not stick.
  4. Many elements reinforce the status quo. Boards of directors reinforce outputs, not customers; business schools are still teaching the old way; the stock market rewards traditional management; and politicians and government agencies reinforce the status quo.

What is the future of libraries, and how should we approach these changes? The wrong answers:

  1. Computerize existing library services. The first mistake with a new technology is almost always to copy what is currently done, which will achieve little.
  2. Use computers to save money, which will only increase costs because costs of introducing technology are almost more than the old way.
  3. Build apps! They are not focused on delivering value to the customers, but are focused on simplifying the organization.

Here are some considerations to think about.

  1. How can we delight our users and customers?
  2. How can we manage our library to enable continuous innovation?
  3. What will make things better, faster, cheaper, more movile, more convenient, or more personalized for our users?
  4. What needs could lbraries meet that users haven’t even thought of?
  5. What sorts of things do users already love? How could we do more of that, sooner, better, faster?

Denning closed with a quote from Michael Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in finding new landscapes but in having new eyes?”

Don Hawkins
Conference Blogger

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