What Does Success Look Like?

March 01, 2017
So often we focus on our daily tasks and deadlines, and define a “good day” by whether we knocked off what was on the list. But keeping an eye on the bigger picture allows us to know whether we are actually succeeding, as opposed to accomplishing.

Special librarians are most valuable to their organizations when they think about their library’s products and services within the context of the top level mission and goals—which (hopefully) clearly describe what success looks like for the organization. Success for the library requires close alignment between knowledge and information related initiatives and top level strategy.

It’s probably easy for librarians—especially those who value measurement and metrics—to come up with a list of achievements that are important to department members. For example:

  • an increase in usage of digital resources
  • a higher rating in an internal survey
  • staff promotions, certifications or published work
  • reduced costs
  • projects that are on time and on budget

These are all great things, but do they tie in with the organization’s mission and goals? If so, how?

The above achievements demonstrate operational efficiency and effectiveness, increasing customer satisfaction and a commitment to professional development. If those areas are important to the organization and are explicitly or implicitly covered in the mission statement, then the library is golden.

Individual professional success often comes (at least in part) as a result of having made your manager look good. Departmental success should come from the same thing. In addition to understanding what success looks like for the organization and aligning with that, you must understand what success looks like for your manager, whether it’s the CIO, the Chief Learning Officer, the COO, the Director of Knowledge Management, or someone in another role. How are they evaluated? What is important to them? If your departmental strategy supports their ability to demonstrate success, you’ve moved from golden to platinum.

Having confirmed that library achievements align with organizational success and with your own manager’s goals, it’s important to communicate that. Senior leaders aren’t generally interested in hearing library specifics. What they do want to know is that the resources you’ve bought are used and valued, and that the company is getting a good result for money spent. They want to know that employees are happy with internal services, and they want to know that departmental staff are getting the training they need.

Reporting at a high level is a good way to communicate your library’s contextual achievements. For example, you could present a slide with the mission statement, and then supporting slides which clearly (and briefly) show what has happened in the library to support that mission. Based on the above examples, that just requires a four slide deck – mission statement; operational efficiency and effectiveness; customer satisfaction, and professional development. Achievements tied to organizational success and brevity? Now that’s what success really looks like.

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