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Is There Such a Thing as Dysfunctional Self-sufficiency?

December 3, 2014

Initially, I almost stopped watching this video because I thought it didn’t relate to us.

Yves Morieux starts by talking about two enigmas in the workplace: disappointing productivity and low levels of engagement.

We have neither of these problems.  In fact, we are quite the opposite.  As an organization, we are amazingly productive and we really care about what we do.

However, as I kept listening, I realized that the talk is really more about dealing with a complex environment.  I think that we can all agree that our environment is complex.  Almost every aspect of what it means to be an academic library is changing — higher education, UTSA’s goals, our mix of students, student expectations, the publishing marketplace and the information access infrastructure — are all changing.

For us, I think the fall-out from all of this change is the uncertainty about how to best move forward (e.g., Are we leaving behind something important?, Are we failing to respond quickly enough?).  I’m not a psychologist, but I am fairly certain that this uncertainty leads to more stress and less overall job satisfaction.

This talk, beginning past one minute and 30 seconds, argues that the problem is that the pillars of management are obsolete.  In order to adapt in this environment, we have to make fundamental changes to how we approach our work.

(Jargon alert: KPIs are key performance indicators a.k.a stats and variable salary is a bonus)

I realize that the talk was a bit harsh… (he definitely wasn’t promoting the soft skills).  In summary, he says:

  • Understand what your people (and each other) do
  • Reinforce integrators (existing managers become responsible for cross-functional communication)
  • Increase the total quantity of power (push authority closer to the work)
  • Extend the shadow of the future (create feedback loops that expose people to the consequences of their actions)
  • Increase reciprocity (make people responsible for what happens downstream and upstream)
  • Reward those who cooperate (he makes some interesting points about blame here)

I would be very interested in hearing what you think of his proposal.

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