The responses to each discussion will need to incorporate material from your readings as described in the case study – your initial response should be between 250 to 300 words. A page for each case study. If you have questions please let me know.
Management Case Studies 7
I want to shed some light on the case study from module 6 where Keisha had to make some changes in the organization and could find no collaborators among the staff. Keisha decided to build a new culture from the ground up and developed strategies, which she employed, designed to break down the way things had always been done. It took a couple of years to fully adjust the behavior of the staff so it was focused on the organizations goals. There are times when you just have to create a new approach or a new way of doing things and then create a culture that exemplifies what you want to achieve. You bring staff on board by involving them in the process of developing the new culture and richly collaborating with staff throughout. The result is you are able to maintain an effective organization, but there are times when a new approach is needed – you have to just go for it, and bring staff in as you can. That is what leadership is all about – having a vision and bringing people along who will internalize that vision eventually.
I know in the textbook that the author’s number one priority was to get the best and brightest staff you possibly can, but that simply won’t happen if you can’t budget for a reasonable wage. Budgeting is by far the most complex part of being a library manager because there are lots of components to it, and you have to get it right when you implement it [going over budget is not acceptable]. As a manager I will try to bring in new talent that has just graduated with an MLS, but I generally find that the rudimentary knowledge of budgeting or handling money is seriously lacking. It is a huge issue that we have many that are budget illiterate, yet it is one of the most important aspects of managing and leading in a library, or any operation for that matter.
Please read the text book in some detail to learn the basics of budgeting, and you have an exercise coming up where you will be looking closely at a budget and making some cuts to it [never an easy thing].
Budgeting is simply about prioritizing the organizations needs, based on your goals and objectives – or what you are trying to achieve as an organization, and as was mentioned in the text there are three primary components: planning, coordinating and controlling. Developing long and short term goals and strategies is the planning piece. Many of us have 5 year plans that we create, as well as work plans that lay out how we are going to focus our resources. Controlling the budget is also a top priority. You have to prove that you can spend within your budget on the things you said you were going to spend on. If you are not able to manage your budget effectively your ability to grow your budget drops precipitously – you have to have the respect of the funding source if you expect them to give you any more money in the future.
I have spoken before about the victim mentality that I see interspersed in the profession and the textbook. The authors indicate, “…the severe economic condition. This has led, and probably will lead to, decreasing or, at best, stable library resources for some time to come”. I really want to impress upon you the importance of understanding that we have a lot more control then is realized or acted upon. The message is a bit muddled because further down the page they indicate, “However by preparing solid requests, having a track record of careful stewardship of funds granted, providing high quality user services…” [the right mix of product and great customer service]. So which is it – is it the economic conditions that have lead to decreasing funding or the fact we are not preparing our budgets effectively or are not providing the level of service that would allow us to grow or maintain a stable budget. Through the hard years after 2008 I was able to increase my budgets dramatically in two different cities. Preparing solid requests and showing that I could effectively manage a budget, and at the same time keep other costs in check, and develop a very productive and efficient team. Being very engaged in the community, and also successfully growing the business to meet community needs were what allowed me to grow the budget so dramatically.
It is always important to read the text to get a feel for the breadth of the budgeting process, but I want to focus on one aspect of budgeting that make many in libraries uncomfortable, and that is politics. When developing a budget there is only a limited amount of money to go around. Scarce resources that everyone needs = politics. In a City as an example you always know that the citizens expect: roads to be drivable, water when they turn the tap on, effective Police and Fire services when they need it, and for the trash to be picked up. Those will always be very high priorities in any city government. Just like funding in an academic library, or a school, there are many needs in the broader organization. It does not mean the library can’t get what it needs, but you have to be smarter. One way to be smarter is to not only argue when you are positioning yourself for your budget about all the great things a library does, but also about how we do them. We are productive, cost effective, focused on superior customer service and we do it better than other departments in the city. We only ask for what we need and if we end up with more than we need we give it back. Your integrity is part of how you position yourself. My City manager knows when I come in that I don’t pad any requests, and that I am always working to cut unnecessary costs, and create as cost effective organization as possible.
In reality one of the biggest reasons libraries have struggled with budgets is that often times we are not really sure what our goals are, or even what the library of the now and the future needs to be. If you can’t figure that out and have a cohesive approach to what you plan to do as a library then you will not get the money because other departments do know what they want. I can guarantee you that Police and Fire can tell you what they are about and what they want. Politics in budgeting in my view is just about positioning yourself to be seen as an honest player who is just trying to get the funds to run a good and effective operation.
My Administrative Assistant at my last job used to always tell me that I was lucky because I always landed on my feet, and the budget always worked out for me. I have a little secret – I always work very hard to develop and maintain key relationships with people in the budget process and throughout the city so when it came to budget time and I present what I wanted to add there were no surprises and I received everyone’s agreement and consent before I even went in to argue for my budget. Effective City Managers do the same. They make sure that by the time the budget is to be voted on by the City Council that every single question the Council has about the budget has been answered and there is something of an agreement that the City Managers budget is on the mark by getting plenty of feedback from the City Council well before the vote on the budget. The City Manager at my last job always got her budget passed [of which the library was a part] – but it wasn’t because she was lucky.
The text also spoke about the importance of being able to raise funds to provide for more than the budget will allow. You can raise funds from fees for services, or you can develop a Friends group of library Foundation to raise extra funds, and you can also approach businesses to become library sponsors. Just as it is when building your budget these added funds come as a result of developing and maintaining relationships. Building a budget and making it happen is about developing relationships and being smarter at the politics, and being honest and seen to have integrity. The first time you try to slip something by and get caught at it your credibility goes away and it is very hard and takes a lot of time to rebuild it.
Please review in the text the different types of budgets including Line item, performance and program budgets. I have worked for many years with a Zero Based budget. In fact from my experience the budget process is generally a hybrid of all the different types. Well run organizations, at least in Municipal Government usually couple the development of a business plan where you detail your goals and objectives, which are tied into the broader organizations goals, and then you tie your budget to that business plan.
The Budget impacts you even if you are not in a position to make a lot of decisions or have much impact in the process. Position yourself so you can be involved in the process. Before becoming a library manager I tried to be as involved in the budgeting process as I could – in fact I would ask the Director to mentor me on the process. Usually a Director is happy for the help and they generally are interested in mentoring staff who ask.
Remember a budget is about allocating scarce resources and is therefore a political process. You have to be smart and position yourself effectively. Maintaining the budget to make sure it is spent properly is very much apart of the process of developing the integrity that you need to portray. I am constantly reviewing the budget on a weekly basis to make sure we are spending our funds effectively. You need to be focused on the budget all the time to stay on top of it – you never want to overspend, so develop a process by which that does not happen.
The reading in the text book [Evans and Greenwell] for this coming week is chapter seventeen on Managing Money. As with the previous readings with all the modules this is meant to teach management and leadership basics but also to aid you in beginning to develop your own philosophy of management, by understanding the importance of developing and managing a budget. Our sixth case study follows – short though they may be they include some important leadership decisions for you to reflect on and discuss. Your response on the discussion board will need to incorporate material from your readings as described in the case study, just as in all the preceding modules – your initial response should be between 250 to 300 words, and then respond substantively to at least two class mates.
Case Study for Module 7:
Karima started in her position as Library Manager after the process of developing the upcoming budget had already been completed so she had no part in deciding on priorities and the focus of the library’s budget.
She reviewed the budget and saw that $35,000 was budgeted to pay for a contract employee to catalog library materials. The contract employee was offsite and records were sent electronically for her to review, correct as necessary and place in the catalog. Karima upon reviewing the records the library was receiving from the vendors came to the decision that the contract laborer was completely unnecessary, and she decided to discontinue the contract.
A portion of the savings was used to upgrade the electronic infrastructure in the library and about one third went back to the City’s General Fund at Karima’s behest.
Would you have terminated the contract laborer, and do you think Karima made the right move in doing so. Would you have allowed a portion of the savings to go back to the City’s General fund? Any educated guess as to why she would have given some money back?