Run, Grow, Transform

It’s a pretty afternoon. Work got out early after a lovely employee recognition lunch. Leif’s still napping at daycare. So, I find myself with some free time and a wifi connection.

In the spirit of blogging as a way of testing out ideas (from the early days of the medium) here’s one I’ve been rolling around in my mind: Run, Grow, Transform.

I learned about this one from my husband, John, who works in IT. From my library-lens interpretation of what he’s told me, the idea comes from Lean thinking, and is a way of thinking about resource allocation: to stay in business, you have to continue running it. Most businesses would like to continue growing (in profits in industry, in reference stats or something similar in libraries). And, to continue to stay relevant, you have to transform in light of external changes to the larger environment. Understanding how much needs to be applied to running vs. growing vs. transforming helps in strategic planning.

Obviously relevant to libraries, right? We have to keep the ship afloat. We continue growing numbers to illustrate our relevance. And if we’re worried about the future of the field, we’re simultaneously trying to transform ourselves to be relevant in this swiftly changing information environment.

So, in all honesty, that’s about as much as I remember from that conversation with John. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea, and I’ve been paying attention to the different pockets of my work and what falls in which bucket. And in that process, I see my core strength: transform. I’m good at running, I’m less focused on growing. I emphasize transforming. But thankfully, in co-workers, I see folks who are amazing at running and who seemingly magically make growth happen where I just can’t even imagine it’s possible. It takes us all to keep things going.

More recently I started thinking about another model, completely separately from the RGT model. But as I think more about them, I think there’s intersection.

Here’s an ugly drawing of what I’m thinking about:

The idea I’m playing with now is that perhaps the risk taking/change/innovation type folks can do their work only if there is a really strong focus on service. In this sense, the “Run,” “Grow” folks might be the most service focused, while the transform people might be the minority, in the end of the bell curve. That being said, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I am in the small end of the bell curve, but I care about good service and doing quality work. Likewise, the folks who get out of bed in the morning due to their focus on service can still innovate and do creative work. Where a person is in the curve is more about the driving force for why they do the work they do.

My sense in this is that you can, in essence, get away with some experimental stuff if you have a solid core of service. In that case the community knows the library is there to meet their needs, and is willing to “put up” with a little innovation, which later might become part of the core service, perhaps even one that defines the library in the future.

Anyway, that’s what’s rattling around in my head these days.

I liked having the theme the other day for posts, so I think I’m going to bring that back. I’ve run a program, Teaching Teaching (Strategies) a few times at ZSR, but will probably try a new model in the fall. That being the case, I’m going to write up the content we covered there, here. If you’re into general education ideas to either (a) use them in your own teaching or (b) to figure out how to get the library to plug into the larger education mission at your institution, this series is for you!

My name is Lauren Pressley. This is where I think out loud, document what I'm doing, and share the things that I like. I'm the Director for Learning Environments at Virginia Tech University Libraries and author of a few books. This blog focuses on libraries, education, information, & the internet. When not at work or blogging, I spend most of my time with John and our son, Leif.