Reading Sarah Houghton-Jan's post on how to allow change in your library institution takes me immediately to an internal question I have asked myself repeatly over the past year. Every time a staff member has submitted a request for technology project, policy change or helpdesk ticket, etc., here is the question that I've run through my head... "Is what I’m being asked (or doing myself) to approve/ fund/ support/ decide, something that will empower or control?"
If it empowers the patron or the staff, I've found myself rubber stamping it almost every time. If it controls the patron, I’ve found myself rejecting it almost exclusively or asking the staff member who submitted it to try an approach the problem from another angle. And if it controls the staff, I’ve often had to ask for more clarification in order to find out if it’s just a departmental need or something that could affect the entire system.
This question has become my own little litmus test. And as a result of asking it continually to myself I have found that it’s been more easy for me to say to “yes” to those things that will make a difference to users and staff and more likely to say “no” or send the idea back to drawing board to see if there’s better way to handle or achieve the desired effect.
So when Sarah asks “What can you do to empower change in your institution? How can you move things forward?” Here’s my simple answer… try the CE (control vs empower) litmus test. It can't cure budget woes, but boy does it make a difference in policy and management decisions.
BTW: In decisions that require a choice between empowering users or empowering staff - users trump staff every time. :)
Related Post: On Control & Empowerment