I don’t love buzzwords but I do love strategic planning. Actually, I love plans in general. Strategy is whole other beast. Strategy forces us to choose specific decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options. As someone who has never beaten anyone at a game of checkers in her life, perhaps my love of strategy is a bit…incongruous.
Planning allows for the clarity of vision so often denied us in the heat of the moment. There is a difference between project planning and strategic plans. How do we differentiate between work that will move a program forward (strategic) and work that prioritizes regular ongoing projects (project)? There is also a question of scope: projects can be quite massive and involve other stakeholders.
Ultimately, what sets strategic planning apart is the quest to understand the work of different functional areas within Special Collections, within the library, and within the community. How can we anticipate shared goals and meet the expectations collaboratively?
Strategic plans tend to take a specific format. They’ll include a vision or mission statement that sets out aspirational goals. They’ll include a list of initiatives and projects that are often quite expansive, perhaps limited only by financial constraints. This means that a significant portion of strategic planning is dedicated to financials. This aspect often falls seamlessly in line with the annual budget…which may not be the best thing given that annual budgets are, by definition, annual. In contrast, strategic plans are generally thought to have a lifespan of about two to five years.
When presented with challenges – whether in the form of staff allocation or the arrival of 136 records cartons full of who-knows-what – the natural reaction is to create a plan which will solve a problem with tried and tested tools. This isn’t a great way to be strategic. It’s a coping mechanism for sure but it’s on par with downloading different kinds of calendar apps from iTunes with the promise to get you organized.
Fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making and you knowing this gives you an advantage. Honestly, if you are completely in your comfort zone, your strategy probably isn’t very good. Strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices. It’s about thinking through what it would take to achieve what you want then assessing whether it’s feasible to try.
Strategic planning is a reflective process, almost like a mindfulness exercise. Why am I here? What are my values? What are my hopes and ambitions for my collections, for my profession? Where are the stumbling blocks? How do I kick them out of my way?
- Raise awareness of what we do, why we do it and its value within the library, academic community, and the wider general public.
- Develop work plans and evaluate our progress.
- Assess projects. Will this project really move us forward? Does it have to happen now?
- Advocate for staff and fiscal resources at every level within our communities.