ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE, STRUCTURES AND STYLES: THE IMPACT OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Liz Pattison

Liz Pattison Pty Ltd
South Perth, Western Austalia

Vicki Williamson

Curtin University of Technology Library
Perth, Western Australia


  Keywords: Human Resource Management, Organizational Culture, Organization Structure, Leader-ship, Management Style, Technology Impact, Change, Academic Libraries, Curtin University of Technology Library, Australia.

Abstract: In keeping with the Conference theme, "Library and Information Systems and Services," this paper identifies and explores a range of strategic human resource manage-ment issues which the authors contend are critical to the successful introduction of innova-tion technologies within organizations.

Technological advances are revolutionizing the delivery of information and library ser-vices and challenging many of our established ideas about what is an information and/or library service. Part of these challenges question the fundamental role of librarians and some of the traditional relationships previously evident in established organizations, such as libraries.

No one will doubt the advantages new information technologies offer for the effective delivery of information and library services and the professional literature documents such advantages as well. However, changing the technology base of service delivery on its own does not always ensure a successful service.

The authors conclude that coupled with the introduction of technological changes must come changes in organizational culture, structure and leadership and management styles, as well as the establishment of new client-oriented service attitudes.

 
1. INTRODUCTION

Rapid advances are occurring in the technologies available to librarians to access, manage and deliver information to our clients. Along with these advances there has been a barrage of promises about how new technology will revolutionize library and information services, with vast benefits in the form of improved services, cost benefits and a better working environment. Yet many libraries, after investing in new technology, are still searching for the scale of benefits that will really make a significant difference. Some efficiency gains have been achieved, but the major improvements in effectiveness are proving illusory. For instance, there are few cases whereby the introduction of new technologies in libraries has significantly reduced the overall demands for staff. Rather than reducing the overall number of staff required, new technologies have changed the nature of work within the library and information profession, and often changed completely the work of some library positions. The emergence of para-professional staff positions within libraries provides evidence of this.

This paper argues that new technology alone will not revolutionize library and information ser-vices. A whole range of strategies must be devised and implemented as part of a composite project encompassing both organizational change and new technology.

As part of such a composite project, we must challenge many of our established ideas about what is a library; what is the fundamental role of librarians; and what organization structures and manage-ment styles will best support the new organizations we are creating. Only then will the library service be strategically positioned to make dramatic moves forward in both service delivery for our clients and quality of working life for our staff.

Furthermore, if we, as librarians do not make these changes in role and service delivery, then we are in danger of being by-passed as a profession as our clients find other avenues to access the infor-mation they need.

Our paper is based on our extensive practical experience with organizational change initiatives in libraries and other organizations, rather than a research or theoretical perspective. Our aim in this presentation is to share experiences and engender debate about how we can achieve significant benefits from new technology, but also ensure a positive, creative and rewarding working environ-ment for staff.

We see the prospect of change within the library and information industry as a stimulating and exciting opportunity - our chance to play a key role in a changing world. We do not view libraries in a traditional way; libraries are not defined by the boundaries of their four walls, nor their geographic position. Rather, libraries are to us a focal point for clients to access information.

We examine why libraries need to change, the changing technology base for library and information services, and opportunities for librarians to rethink organizational culture, structure and management style.

2. WHY LIBRARIES NEED TO CHANGE

Three major factors have an impact on libraries and librarians, and are creating the need for major change. These are:

Firstly, our clients' information needs are becoming increasingly complex, while, at the same time our clients have higher expectations of the quality of service they should receive. Influencing factors are the increasing complexity of business, government, education and private life in our society, and higher information awareness as society becomes better educated - we are after all living in an Information Age.

Secondly, as all librarians are aware, the range of information sources is growing exponen-tially, opening the opportunities to finally be able to provide "the right information, to the right person, at the right time." Yet no library today can possibly collect all potentially relevant informa-tion. We therefore must continually be searching for new ways to match information need and information source in a fast and cost-effective way. By necessity this requires us to develop co-operative approaches - locally, nationally and internationally.

Thirdly, with world-wide economic recession, the resources available to many libraries are shrinking. While costs increase and demand grows, funding is reducing alarmingly. The pressure on dedicated staff in many of our libraries is reaching an unacceptable level.

If we are to find solutions to these challenges, we must rethink our role, products and services. We need to question many of our traditional approaches to the way we work, and find new and creative ways to better meet client demand.

3. THE CHANGING TECHNOLOGY BASE

The technology available to libraries continues to evolve and provides scope for continually redefining our services. Contrast the previous traditional understanding of what a library is to the thinking currently evolving. A library was once seen as a repository within four walls - information bounded by a physical environment. Today we are moving towards the concept of an electronic library - a virtual library where the location of the physical resource is no longer critical. Our thinking now revolves around access to information sources rather than the traditional approach of collecting and storing information sources in a specific geographic location.

For example, in many academic libraries, teaching and research staff can access from their desktop not only the parent library but colleagues at neighboring institutions, across the state or territory, and across the world. They can retrieve files and full text documents and share ideas and research data. How should librarians respond to these developments? We contend that we need to carry out a fundamental reassessment of our role and definition of what value added information services libraries should provide.

4. LIBRARY CULTURE - WHY DO WE EXIST?

Fundamental to the role we play and the service we provide is the culture within the library.

Culture within any organization is the value system - what each member of the organization be-lieves to be important; why they believe the organization exists. Culture, in an organizational sense, embodies our deepest beliefs about our work, and guides our decisions and actions. Creating changes in role and behavior is dependent on achieving a shift in values and attitudes, not by mana-gement edict, but by creating a shared vision for the future.

The approach to creating this shared vision must be participative, and this poses a greater chal-lenge for large libraries. Staff must be able to participate in debate about external issues affecting the library, changing needs of clients, and alternatives for the future. Clients must also feed into this process, expressing their expectations by survey, interviews or workshop sessions.

Using the example of Curtin University of Technology Library (Perth, Western Australia), this type of process led library staff to value their skills in navigating and facilitating information access, rather than focussing on collecting, arranging and storing in-house documents. Their motto became "Helping our clients navigate the information universe", with all library staff being information navigators.

Similarly, a personnel department in a large organization changed its focus from daily processing of personnel transactions to the objective of "Maximizing the potential of the organization's human resources".

Realization of the importance of culture to strategic position is critical for all sizes and types of libraries. Only when we have decided why we should exist and what we will value are we able to progress the planning and then decide how we want to operate, and how technology can assist.

5. ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE

Structure is more than the positions within a library and their hierarchical relationship, as drawn on a structure chart. Structure encompasses decisions on individual roles, job descriptions and working relationships.

When implementing organizational change involving new technology, deciding how the library will function, by way of its structure, is a critical next step after building a shared perception of organizational culture.

For all libraries there is the challenge to create an environment where client and staff satisfaction can be achieved cost effectively. In large libraries there is the additional and significant challenge of how to best organize staff. Much of our organizational thinking of recent times has recognized the importance of teamwork, and especially where multi-disciplinary teams can work together, pooling their range of skills to produce a product or service.

Kouzes and Posner through extensive research have developed a leadership challenge model to illustrate how to get extraordinary things done in organizations. As part of their research they iden-tified the need for leaders to "foster collaboration" and get people to work together. In the more than 500 organizations they studied, not one example of extraordinary achievement was found to be accomplished without the active effort and support of many people (Kouzes and Posner, 1987, pp 133-134). Moreover, in getting extraordinary things done in organizations, Kouzes and Posner contend that "everyone is important, not just the leader", with their research showing a strong rela-tionship between "managerial effectiveness and enabling others to act".

In addition, for libraries of all sizes, there is the challenge to develop individual roles and job descriptions that provide sufficient guidance for what is to be achieved, while allowing enough room for the type of flexibility and choice that makes work challenging and satisfying.

Drucker (1988) focuses on organizational structure and describes new types of information-based organizations; a description which could very well fit a library and information service. According to Drucker,

"...the typical business will be knowledge-based, an organization composed largely of specialists who direct and discipline their own performance through organized feedback from colleagues, customers and headquarters." (p 45) Drucker questions the role of middle management in such organizations, and highlights the opportunity for organizational structures which are more like an orchestra (specialists playing their own parts, guided by the conductor) than the command and control, army style organizations with tiered organization structures.

Importantly, debating the most appropriate structure, roles and job descriptions cannot be done in isolation from evaluating how technology can provide opportunities for new working relationships and improved work practices. The process should be a participatory one, involving library staff. Thinking laterally about how the technology could be used in different organizational structures, and where most benefit can be achieved, is a critical step in both deciding structure and choosing/ developing/enhancing technology.

6. MANAGEMENT STYLE

All the organizational change projects in which we have been involved emphasize the belief that change is most successfully implemented when the people in the organization feel ownership of the new direction. Such ownership, we believe, is best achieved through participation in deciding the changes which will be made. This style of planning and decision-making is only credible where an open, consultative style of management is in place.

However, to achieve significantly new initiatives - to revolutionize library and information ser-vices via the use of technology - requires more than open styles of management and participatory planning. It requires leadership.

The research by Kouzes and Posner (1987) offers some useful insights into effective leadership within organizations. Their model of effective leadership (as opposed to management) illustrates - in their words - "How to get extraordinary things done in organizations"

Just as we would contend that customer service is the make-or-break factor in any library, Kouzes and Posner also identify it as a critical success factor.

Kouzes and Posner (1987, p. xviii) found that successful organizations are those led by indivi-duals who know their own strengths and weakness as leaders; who learn how to inspire and moti-vate others towards a common purpose; who acquire new skills in building a cohesive and spirited team; and who practice these skills more regularly than others.

Kilgour (1992, p. 457) stresses that to achieve real breakthroughs leaders must be lateral think-ing and entrepreneurial. Kilgour quotes Nobel Laureate economist Paul Samuelson (1951 p. 594), who distinguishes the entrepreneur "from the bureaucratic executive and manager [librarian] who simply keeps an established business running." In contrast, the entrepreneur is "a man with a brand-new idea to invent a revolutionary machine or a softer soft drink - to promote a new product or find a way to lower costs on an old one." Senge (1990, p. 8) adds a further dimension to the type of leaders required for progressive organizations. He introduces the concept of a learning organization which has moved from adaptive to generative learning, i.e. learning which requires "new ways of looking at the world, whether in understanding customers or in understanding how to better manage a business." The leader's role in a learning organization is that of designer, teacher and steward. The role of designer involves development of vision and core values; while as teacher the leader focuses on "helping everyone in the organization, oneself included, to gain more insightful view of current reality." Stewardship requires a personal concern for both the individuals they manage, and for the mission of the wider organization.

We firmly believe that successful organizations are, and will continue to be, those with effective leadership. Such leaders achieve positive organization cultures, have a strong client focus, and engender organizations which welcome change as a challenge. Without such leadership it will not be possible to use technology to revolutionize library and information services.

7. EDUCATION FOR THE PROFESSION - EDUCATION FOR CHANGE

If our profession is to meet the many challenges facing it and to carve out a new and vital role for itself in the 21st century, then the library and information leaders of tomorrow need an effective education today. Fundamental changes are required to our professional education systems, including the realignment of the profession with other information disciplines, especially information systems. We need to radically rethink the way in which we prepare the individual for entry to and work in our profession. Recent debate in the library and information profession in the United States is beginning to put forward some of the issues for discussion. In Australia, however, debate is guarded and largely being directed by the federal Government's agenda. Debate within education and profes-sional circles in Australia has been slow to develop.

8. CONCLUSION

In conclusion let us restate our position:

Culture, structure and management styles are fundamental characteristics of any organization, inclusive of libraries. As new technologies are introduced into organizations adjustments must be made to these characteristics if the organization is to evolve.

Reliance on technology alone cannot ensure a successful organization, only when organizations marry technology with human endeavor and a client-oriented focus will the organization be well placed to survive well into the 21st century.
 
 

REFERENCES

Drucker, P.F. (January-February, 1988). "The coming of the new organization," Harvard Busi-ness Review, pp. 45-53.

Kilgour, F.G. (Winter, 1992). "Entrepreneurial leadership," Library Trends, 40 (3): 457-474.

Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (1987). The Leadership Challenge, How to Get Extra-ordinary Things Done in Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Samuelson, P.A. (1951). Economics: An Introductory Analysis. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Senge, P.M. (Fall, 1990). "The leader's new work: Building learning organizations," Sloan management Review, pp. 7-23.