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LEADERSHIP IN THE DESIGN OF ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEMS is the primary focus of an organizational development (OD) position. The OD consultant (internal or external) guides the leadership group to understand the complex nature of human organizations and the need for creation of systems and processes that support the mission, values, goals, and vision of the organization. As organizational structures change to adapt to new environmental challenges and development of a new culture is required, the approach to, and design of, new organizational systems will be critical to the success of the organization. This article will define for OD practitioners, human resource professionals, and library leaders some of the myriad organizational support systems that must be created and integrated to support new, postmodern organizational structures where collaborative learning, participative decision-making, and shared accountability can ensure adaptability, flexibility, and the potential for future success. The author's experience in the University of Arizona (UA) Library over the past ten years will be used to articulate potential approaches while sharing personal views of the successes and challenges.
Over the past ten years, the University of Arizona (UA) Library has been a laboratory for learning about organizational change. This article does not intend to advocate for any particular change model but rather to share observations from one individual who has played a leadership role in that change process and to frame those observations within a developing theory that organizational change is best studied and assessed through the lens of system integration.
Certain organization researchers will be central to the exposition of theory embraced in this article. The work of W. Edwards Deming, Peter Scholtes, and Peter Senge form the core of the systems theory presented here. Deming defines a system as "a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the aim of the system.... An example of a system, well-optimized is a good orchestra" (1994, p. 50). Scholtes notes, "Systems consist of subsystems or, if they're small enough in scope, processes. What is the point at which something is no longer a system or a subsystem but becomes a process? I don't know. (When does a ship become small enough to be called a boat?)" (Scholtes, 1998, p. 58).
In this article the term "system" will be operationally defined as the network of processes that provides the infrastructure or framework that supports the actual work of an organization, the Gemba, as Scholtes calls it. "The Gemba is the assembly of critical resources and the flow of work that contribute to those efforts that directly add value to the customer" (Scholtes, 1998, p.76). The infrastructure systems described in this article are non-Gemba; rather they are those that exist to support the Gemba: the leadership system, the team system, the planning system, the communication system, the process improvement system, the performance effectiveness management system, the compensation and reward system, and the recruitment and hiring system. While this article focuses on several important systems, there are other systems that are also crucial to library organizational success, especially the management information system, the technological system, the budgeting system, the fundraising system, and the marketing system.
Deming believed that most problems in an organization can be attributed to a system, not to people. "In my experience, most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to proportions something like this: 94% belong to the system (the responsibility of management); 6% are attributable to special causes" (Deming, 1994, p. 33). Scholtes adds his viewpoint on the importance of becoming knowledgeable about organizational systems and identifies what is wrong with our present systems. Among a long list of current systems issues, which he calls "brainshakers," he includes the following:
We look to heroic efforts of outstanding individuals for our successful work. Instead we must create systems that routinely allow excellent work to result from the ordinary efforts of people.... Changing the system will change what people do. Changing what people do will not change the system.... The greatest conceit of managers is that they can motivate people ... attempts (they make) will only make things worse.... Behind incentive programs lies management's patronizing and cynical set of assumptions about workers ... Managers imply that their workers are withholding a certain amount of effort, waiting for it to be bribed out of them. (Scholtes, 1998, p. ix-x)
Senge's works, The Fifth Discipline(1990) and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (Senge et al., 1994), also have greatly influenced the theories put forward here. Senge brings together the need for systems thinking with the practice of other disciplines. "The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn at all levels" (Senge, 1990, p. 4). His five disciplines outline practices that will enable continuing reflection, research, and learning about organizational systems and human development that can result in continuous improvement. Viewing the organization as a system within systems and made up of systems (systems thinking), supporting people in gaining proficiency and pursuing personal visions (personal mastery), making conscious our deeply held beliefs and assumptions and examining their appropriateness (mental models), developing the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create (shared vision), and using dialogue to increase the capacity of groups to learn and discover new insights (team learning) are the five key practices that can unleash the potential for organizational learning (Senge, 1990, pp. 5-12). These practices or disciplines must be embedded in the systems we design to support organizational success.
In a recent essay Senge emphasizes that "Purpose is emergent. It can never be specified by design.... Emergence alters design. As purpose evolves, so too will function" (Senge, 2000, p. 78). The following examination presupposes that, as the mission for academic libraries emerges in the postmodernist, digital age, there will be a critical need to understand how the design of organizational systems support that expanding and, perhaps, changing mission. The views expressed are those of the internal organization development consultant to one library, which, over the past ten years, has prepared for the transformational changes that will occur in the twenty-first century.
BACKGROUND ON THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA LIBRARY'S EVOLUTION AS A TEAM-BASED, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED, LEARNING ORGANIZATION
In 1989 the University of Arizona Library administrators charged a task force, the Access and Ownership Task Force, to investigate the impact of rising serial prices on the library's ability to continue to build high-quality research collections. Analysis of the effect of internal budget reductions and external forces within the scholarly communication process, not the least of which were the escalating costs of purchasing and warehousing large collections, led the task force to recommend that the library pursue an "access" strategy in the future in order to ensure its success in serving the university in its vision of being a top-tier Research I institution. (1) The Task Force also recommended that a new organizational structure would be needed to support this new and very different strategic focus. This recommendation was in place as the new dean arrived in 1990.
In 1992 the new dean of libraries recognized the need to develop a strategy that would move the library forward strategically and formed a steering committee to complete a self-study. The charge included: (1) identifying what values, vision, and assumptions should drive the creation of an organization that would ensure future success, and (2) deciding (with the dean's input) how that organization should be structured. In 1993 this committee decided that the library should become a team-based, customer-focused, quality, learning organization. After reading the literature on organizations and receiving input from staff, faculty, and students, key assumptions of this "new" organization were developed by the steering committee. The following summary describes the thinking of those involved in this decision:
A. Increased staff productivity and quality service would ensure that the library remained central to the university's educational and research mission despite continued and expected budget reductions. Service would become more and more technology based and customers would demand self-sufficiency.
B. Involvement and empowerment of the entire staff in the new team-based organization would lead to the development of new capabilities that would be needed for a successful future. Teams would "own" work processes and set goals that resulted in quality service for customers.
C. Assessment of current and future customer needs would be central to strategic planning, prioritization of work, and the allocation of resources. Data and information would be the basis for decision-making, not authority and personal experience.
D. Self-accountability and organizational support for personal mastery and team learning would result in high performance and commitment to continuous learning. Staff would receive support to successfully engage in change. This would help the library adapt to a radically different model of organization effectiveness and remain flexible enough to respond quickly to changes in the environment.
E. The focus of the organization would be strategically planning for the future, investing in continuous process improvement and technological innovation as users' needs change and the capabilities of electronic technology transform the way libraries provide access.
These key assumptions drove not only the creation of a new structure but also the need to create organizational systems that supported people to be successful in working within that structure. Over the next ten years these systems that would support the goals of the library--high performance, continuous improvement, cost containment, increased access, satisfaction of future customers as well as the development of a competent, committed, successful, and highly motivated staff--were developed.
The new organizational systems would align together to support the culture change. The organizational change would be drastic. The UA Library of the 1970s and 1980s was a participative but traditionally hierarchical, non-technical, inward-focused organization that valued collection building and was based on a service model that assumed users' dependence on mediation. The new goals called for a flatter organization with shared decision-making and problem-solving responsibilities, utilizing technology for its potential to increase access and support innovative, unmediated self-service. External focus would help the staff anticipate, meet, and surpass the expectations of customers--even as their research and learning needs and expectations changed radically. As the nonhierarchical approach took shape, it was clear that all the embedded systems that had supported work in the former organizational structure were incompatible with the new structure and goals. Every system--from the leadership and hiring systems to work process design and performance management--would have to change. Strong commitment to the new values and vision held the pioneering group together in the early days of experimentation, but it became clear this would not be enough to sustain the practices desired in the new organization. Systems aligned with goals and principles needed to be created, implemented, and melded with the structure and adopted as central to the organization's culture. Culture change would not have been possible without systems change.
The key driver for the University of Arizona Library's 1993 restructuring was the continuing need to respond to present and future budget reductions. The need to eliminate non-value-added work, cut costs, implement new electronic services, and continuously improve quality as customers became more demanding called for a radically different leadership system. The steering committee decided to reduce the number of work units and to replace traditional positions of hierarchical, managerially focused department heads with facilitative leaders of teams. They believed that more value-added work could be performed by leader-led teams than by manager-led departments. They also believed that staff and librarians, if called upon to work at the highest levels of their classification and full professional abilities, would need little supervision. As leaders facilitated agreement on mission, vision, and values, conflict would be minimal; as staff were empowered to participate fully in decision-making, the need to manage people in a hierarchical supervisory system would be greatly reduced. Facilitated group decision-making would replace the need for unilateral managerial decisions and would actually increase the quality of decisions made, as well as the commitment to implementation.
Functional, or permanent, teams and cross-functional, temporary, teams would work together to accomplish strategic work. Assessment would lead to "just in time" projects. As learning increased, quality would increase. As customers' needs changed, the organization would be able to restructure to respond appropriately. Staff would not just have a job, they would be members of the organization, working where their skills were needed, completing projects and moving on to other more strategic work. This vision was consistent with then-current organizational theories.
Today's organizations are evolving into federations, networks, clusters, cross-functional teams, temporary systems, ad hoc task forces, lattices, modules, matrices--almost anything but pyramids with their obsolete top-down leadership. Organizations that want to be in the phone book in 2005--will be led by leaders who encourage healthy dissent and values those followers courageous enough to say no. Success will go to the leader who exults in cultural differences and knows that diversity is the best hope for long-term survival and success. (Bennis, 2000, p. 121)
The UA Library continues to function within the team-based, shared leadership model. Responsibility and authority for decision-making is shared throughout the organization among the functional and cross-functional teams and leadership groups. To a large extent, strategic planning and budgeting decisions are made by standing cross-functional teams appointed by the Library Cabinet, the library-wide leadership group. Teams are charged to decide their own annual plans based on assessment of implicit and explicit, present and future needs of customers. Technical infrastructure systems are designed by cross-functional teams using a formal systems analysis approach. Restructuring of teams and redesign of work processes often occurs after formal process improvement studies have been conducted by cross-functional teams. All teams are guided to seek ways of reducing costs while increasing quality.
The discipline of personal mastery is embedded in all systems. Staff and librarians volunteer for and lead cross-functional teams, step in to fill team-leader vacancies, and participate fully in library-wide dialogues, sharing responsibility for continuous improvement. In addition, although all functional team leaders report directly to the dean, most library-wide policy and budget decision-making is delegated to the fifteen-member Cabinet, where decisions are made by consensus. All faculty and staff search teams utilize consensus decision-making, with the dean joining the team for faculty searches. Leadership responsibilities for communicating externally involve subject experts as well as team leaders. Liaison responsibilities with the campus deans and faculty are delegated to the team leaders and teams. The dean and Cabinet play a strong role in guiding and supporting teams, questioning draft plans, and giving input to proposed solutions and methods for improving services, but ultimate decision-making authority lies with the teams. Each cross-functional team is charged with gathering and analyzing data, assessing needs, benchmarking good practices, and choosing alternate methods for resolving issues or creating new services or structures. Data, analysis, and experimentation guide the decision-making process.
Leadership support provided by the internal organization development (OD) consultants has been critical to sustaining this model. In 1993 training in facilitative leadership skills, teambuilding, facilitation of meetings, and communication of the guiding principles was the primary focus. In 1994 and 1996 training was needed in initiating process improvement approaches, helping teams to integrate tools, and techniques for group decision-making and problem-solving. As the team-based organization matured, consulting on organization design and facilitating the integration of non-Gemba organizational systems became the leadership focus of these OD personnel helping the organization to apply new theory and practice. Kotter notes that in any change process, "consolidating gains and producing more change" is critical. In order to be ultimately successful, Kotter contends, the organization must be committed to "Changing all systems and structures that do not fit together and don't fit the transformation vision; hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision; and reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents" (Kotter, 1996, p. 21). Alignment of systems is critical to success; misalignment will not only cause confusion for the members of the organization but potentially derail the change vision itself.
During this ten-year journey the UA Library has recognized that customers and stakeholders are the focus of all library initiatives. The staff bring their collective professional values, vision, and commitment to quality to problems customers encounter finding information, accessing the cultural record, learning, and contributing to the continuing development of knowledge. Many successes have put the UA Library in the forefront of academic libraries.
DEVELOPING THE NON-GEMBA ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEMS
The development of organizational support systems is time consuming and challenging. Each system requires rethinking of system goals and processes. Design of new systems requires broad organizational and human resource knowledge. Systems that are deeply embedded in a hierarchical culture are not easy to replace. A feeling of loss, a sense of confusion, and lack of understanding of the reasons for change often lead to difficulties in the implementation period. Constant assessment and refinement of the system are required. New members, new leaders, and new external challenges keep the development of the systems in flux. The dynamic and complex change process demands that the leadership system be developed first. The order of descriptions of each system below reflects, generally, the order in which the UA Library developed its present organizational infrastructure, although there may be a more logical order of approach. It should also be recognized that parts of these systems need to be put in place simultaneously and as early as possible. Adherence to basic principles such as empowerment, accountability, and personal mastery, and the goals of maximizing capacity, supporting change, being responsive to customers' needs, and demonstrating a return on investment for stakeholders are paramount concerns during the design and implementation periods. Each of the goals of selected systems will be described, methods for …