Overcoming Oraganizational Barriers and Preparing for the Future Through Consortial Partnerships.
Speaker: Johann van Reenen, Director, University of New Mexico


Abstract

Which electronic product/service has your library purchased recently? How was it selected, who (or which group/committee) was involved, who made the decision, and how long did it take? This presentation will analyze the results and/or ongoing experiences from a variety of information partnerships and joint ventures. It will explore whether there are organizational models that better facilitate the purchase or licensing of electronic products/services and consortial leadership than others.
As well, we will explore the emerging role of chaos and complexity theories on team decision making and risk taking.

1. Introduction
2. Chaos. Complexity, Uncertainty, and Ambiguity; Why It Does What It Does To Us
3. New Ways of Working and Acting - In Consortia and Other Partnerships
4. New Ways of Working and Acting - For Individual Librarians
5. Advice From a Slow Learner
6. Conclusions
7. References



Paper

1. Introduction

Many electronic products are priced out of reach for a single institution. As budgets become tight, libraries look toward consortia as a way of reducing costs by subscribing as a group to commonly used databases, relying on the economics of scale to bring prices down. Furthermore, consortial licensing often provides opportunities for customization and to add information from other sources, thereby increasing the value-for-money factor and usefulness of the purchase. It is important to note, however, that I believe electronic licensing and consortia are only part of the solution while we are transitioning to a new model of scholarly communication.

Can groups really get their act together to do the job? Yes, Consortia and other partnerships can if due process is followed in establishing a legal entity and if bylaws are clarified before making consortial decisions. Also, keeping to the time-honored rules for conducting good meetings will make difficult decisions easier, especially if each member gets an opportunity, early on, to describe their local systems operation; what's good about it, what their machine and people strengths are, and what the organizational infrastructure and funding obstacles might be. In deciding on any joint purchase, decision making will be easier if there are clear goals and priorities for the group, e.g. priority is given to products serving undergraduates/the public/ researchers, or priority is given to products which require minimal implementation effort, for instance, access via the internet using a standard browser. I am assuming such conditions exist for most joint ventures and want to focus rather on individual and group decision making inside participating organizations. The real questions I would like to address today, are:

  1. CAN I AND MY ORGANIZATION TAKE THE RISKS NECESSARY IF WE ARE NOT IN SOLE CONTROL?
  2. HOW CAN WE EXPEDITE DECISION MAKING IN OUR ORGANIZATIONS TO AVOID MISSING OPPORTUNITIES FOR INNOVATION?
In team-based organizations the latter is often of great concern., i. e. Who speaks for the organization in consortial negotiations?

Please think about the following and share your responses with the group: Which electronic product or service have your library purchased recently? How was it selected? Which committee or what person made the decision? How long did it take?

Over the years I have been involved in decision making in a variety of information partnerships and joint ventures in Canada and the US. Deciding on which electronic products or services to buy and signing licenses, especially as part of a consortium, is becoming increasingly difficult and complex. At the same time these decisions has to be made faster to capitalize on special offers and time limited quotes.

This type of decision making requires risk taking in an environment that is complex, ambiguous, uncertain, and turbulent. (Figure 1) Complexity result from the technology involved, the legalese of licensing, and the communication and decision making processes among consortial members. Ambiguity results from the many, and sometimes conflicting, stipulations of licenses. Uncertainty results from our ability to fund electronic products and the viability of such products and their technology base over the long term. The current international and national electronic copyright and licensing deliberations adds both complexity and uncertainty. Turbulence results from all of the above, but mostly from the chaos in the market place. Thus we are "caut"-up in chaos!

Figure 1.



                                            CAUT-UP IN CHAOS

COMPLEXITY            AMBIGUITY            UNCERTAINTY            TURBULENCE


So what do we do when we are ‘CAUT’ BETEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE? The rock : We have to have electronic products, but we can’t afford to go it alone and need partners. The hard place: We are uncertain about the best products, platforms, and access options and their long term viability..

I believe the best answers lie in:

In libraries we are being buffeted by turbulent forces. We and our organizations are under immense pressure to alter or dismantle deeply held patterns and valued traditions. We are at times disoriented by the accompanying loss of familiarity and safety. To quote James Krantz: Krantz J. "Anxiety & the new order." ISPSO Papers. 30 Nov.1995
http://www.sba.oakland.edu/ispso/html/krantz.html ; 15 p.
 

It pretty much says it all. Imbedded here are both the problems and the solutions. The latter being CHOICE AND LEARNING.
 

2.  Chaos. Complexity, Uncertainty, and Ambiguity; Why It Does What It Does To Us.

We MUST foresee and stay in control, for without this there can be no order, only anarchy. This has been the credo of organizational management in industrial society. But, more and more of us, are realizing that there are limits to planning and traditional forms of control. We know people, even ourselves, at times, manage in situations far from certainty and agreement. Ralph Stacey, Director of the Complexity and Management Centre at the University of Hertforshire, UK, puts it in the following context (Figure 3).

Thus, when we are close to certainty we are able to predict, forecast, and plan. Even better, if we are close to agreement also, we can share the same purposes, goals, and objectives. If we are far from certainty we are unable to identify the link between cause and effect, and we are far from grasping the future through long range planning. What do we do then? We begin to live in a space where creativity is out amor. I hope to show that we can muddle through by changing how we think about being CAUT. Between the stable and chaotic zones above, is Stacey’s ‘Space for Creativity’. He describes this as being:

This is the space where electronic purchases, joint ventures, and innovation originate.

After reviewing and listing the nine classic business books, Jim Collins noticed three dominant themes (Collins 1996):

Thus, the idea of CAUT has been with us for a long time, but has not made it’s way into our common vocabulary and way of working, other than adding insecurity and anxiety to our daily activities. Causing frenzies of strategic planning and visioning in our organizations. And even more ‘change management’ sessions!

Figure 2.



How Far From Certainty Are We When We Have To Act?  How Far From Agreement Are We?

 

Adapted from: Ralph Stacey. "How can complexity theory help us navigate the future? - A dynamic perspective." Lecture. Skandia Future Centers, 27-28 January, 1997.
http://www.skandia.se/koncern_intellektuell/navigate_the_future.htm


People decide and act in a given situation based on a paradigm identified as appropriate for that situation, and identifying the accepted paradigm is the crux of decision making under uncertainty. ( Choi, 1993 ) The current paradigm for dealing with CAUT is, I contend, strategic planning based on incrementalism. More about this later, it is important to understand that our current vocabulary predicts our response to CAUT. We need to create a new and shared language (Figure 3) to capitalize on ‘being CAUT’.
 
Figure 3.



"THE LIMITS OF MY LANGUAGE MEAN THE LIMITS OF MY WORLD."
Wittgenstein, 1921, Proposition 5.6.

OBSERVATIONS ON A SHARED LANGUAGE

1. NO EASY ANSWERS - MANY OF OUR PROBLEMS ARE SYSTEMIC, AND HAS NO READY ANSWERS

CHAOS THEORY postulates that the behaviour of individual elements in a system can’t be predicted; they are out of control, despite what on the surface may seem to be orderly and well-behaved.
COMPLEXITY THEORY similarly states that systems are generally not externally controlable. However, complex systems are in constant transitions, self-creating small levels of order, and then adapting, and changing again.

2. ADAPTIVE CHALLENGE - RATHER THAN EVERYDAY PROBLEMS AND ANNUAL GOAL SETTING, WE SHOULD EXPOSE AND FACE ADAPTIVE CHALLENGES

"Adaptive work is required when our deeply held beliefs are challenged, when values that made us successful become less relevant, and when legitimate, yet competing perspectives emerge"
"The locus of responsibility for problem solving when an [organization] faces adaptive challenge must shift to its people. " Solutions to adaptive challenge reside... " in the collective intelligence of employees at all levels, who need to use one another as resources, often across boundaries, to learn their way to those solutions. Heifetz,RA & Laurie,DL. HBR Jan/Feb 1997; p. 124

3. CONFLICT IS A SOURCE OF CREATIVITY - CONFLICT OCCURS WHEN WE MUST CONFRONT TOUGH TRADE-OFFS IN VALUES, PROCEDURES, OPERATING STYLES, AND POWER. THERE IS RARELY IMPROVEMENT WITHOUT CONFLICT.

"A leader helps expose conflict, viewing it as the engine of creativity" Heifetz,RA & LaurieDL. HBR Jan/Feb 1997; p. 127
 
4. CHAOS OR CREATIVE DISORDER - THERE EXIST A BROAD POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN ALL ORGANIZATIONS, BUT OFTEN MANAGEMENT CONTROLS INHIBITS THIS POTENTIAL WHILE CREATIVE DISORDER MAKES IT FLOURISH.

"When one assumes that 'bounded instability' presents opportunities for performance improvement, learning, and adaptation, then logically, the manager may need to create disorder when organizations become too stable" Evans, GE. Public Administration Review Sept/Oct 1996; p.429

5. LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS - CONTINUOUS LEARNING FROM OTHERS AND FROM OUR MISTAKES.

6. WORK AVOIDANCE - EVEN HARDWORKING PEOPLE EXHIBIT WORK AVOIDANCE BY :


What does theories about complexity and chaos add to our understanding of working and managing? Sam Overman says: "First is appreciation, not distrust, of chaos and of uncertain, stressful times in organizations..." (Overman 1996). I hope I have show in this section that:

3.  New Ways of Working and Acting - In Consortia and Other Partnerships

Below is a generalized description of the process involved in consortial purchasing decisions.

The best way to start negotiations is to ask for a free trial or offer to be a beta test group for an evolving product. This should be free to members of the consortium, except for their local investments of people's time and the use of existing hardware at each site. If members and their local users are satisfied with the product, the group should begin planning the contract negotiations, especially what the product is "worth" to them. Decide on the amount which will be the bottom line. Then ask for a draft contract and invoice from the vendor. Insist on a dedicated sales representative to whom the consortium's negotiators will direct all communications and questions. Explain the major issues and concerns to this person; being honest about whether and how these issues will affect the purchase decision. It is also important to try to find out if other organizations or consortia have signed licenses recently or are in a similar negotiating phase. This information is hard to get - using the library Internet grapevine and informal networks may be the best way to do this. Vendors are loath to divulge such information as they see this as weakening their bargaining position.

Responding to the contract:

This is the most problematic phase as individual members will have to "sell" and get approval for the contract and subsequent changes and additions from their "home" organization's decision makers. This is made easier if such persons or committees were kept informed at each step of the process and funds were identified in advance. Once a suitable contract is negotiated with the vendor, the group should decide on the best way to invoice members for their portion of the licensing fee. Either, directly from the vendor to each member, or as a single invoice to the consortium, to be paid from membership fees.

My examples of consortial decision making comes from that of the Library Services Alliance of New Mexico (the "Alliance"). The Alliance is a cooperative organization which promotes the sharing of resources among its members to enhance access to scientific and technical research information. Founded in January 1992, the Alliance is made up of libraries at the three New Mexico research laboratories and three New Mexico universities that have the major science and technology collections in the state.

The mission of the Alliance is to enhance access to research information for the Alliance scientific and technical community through cooperative ventures and our vision is to be a world-class information provider to our primary communities, while enhancing the scientific and technical research competitiveness for New Mexico.

PAST AND PRESENT GOALS:

The Alliance goals in 1992 were to meet the needs of researchers by:

Contrast this with the 1997 goals: A decision history of the purchase of SciSearch@LANL® (Figure 4. See also http://lib-www.lanl.gov/alliance/scidesc.htm ) provides insights into the decisions that need to be made at the consortial level and at the organization level to bring a project to fruition. For the latter, I will use my own organization, the UNM General Libraries, as an example.

Figure 4.



SCISEARCH ® NEGOTIATIONS AT A GLANCE
 
1997  1996  1995
Alliance negotiates an agreement with LANL to provide SciSearch infrastructure support. Work continues on a contract with ISI for other members. LANL has loaded the ISI tapes SciSearch is available at LANL. Negotiations continue to provide access to other Alliance members.
UNM contracts with LANL for Alerts service. LANL purchases additional  years.  Database has 13.5 mill citations from 1977-1996. Director’s group meets with ISI Agent in May re: pricing, usage, and a trial / test period.
LANL releases version 3.0 of SciSearch. LANL releases ‘Alerts" to its  users  SciSearch demonstrated in Sept.LANL holdings linked to data.
Sandia & UNM holdings loaded & linked to data SNL, UNM & Phillips complete Negotiations with ISI for access to SciSearch data; 1985-96. 6-months SciSearch trial for Alliance users begins Oct. 1.
NMSU & NMT negotiate access to SciSearch for fewer years to take effect Jan, 1998.  LANL releases version 2.0 of SciSearch.
Adapted from 1997 Annual Report of the Library Services Alliance of New Mexico.

As can be seen from the events timeline, the first phase involved buy-in by users through a six month trial. At the conclusion of this, there was a hue and cry from them. They could not live without this new service. What is not clear from Figure 5, is the short timelines for decisions about joining the consortial license - one month- and for raising the needed funds - five working days! The first step was to ask if the base price could be paid over three years in more or less equal installments. This done, the race was on, at least in my organization, to get commitments for portions of an over 200K bill over three years from science, engineering, and health sciences departments. As well librarians had to be convinced to give up paper versions of the index and cancel other traditional reference tools.

The major lessons learned from this? One person needs to be the champion of the project, as well as the organization’s sole negotiator. This person has to be able to shoulder the risks and calm the fears, while consistently communicating the benefits of the product. In this case it was the competitive edge the product would give our researchers. In retrospect we wondered; Could this project have come to fruition if we had to make decisions as a team? I still struggle with this question. Especially as I saw other partners in the Alliance fail to pull it off, not because of lack of money, but because of their decision process.

The case of the IDEAL ELECTRONIC JOURNALS® consortial purchase at UNM is a story of mixed success but illustrates the process of decision making in a complex environment even better than the SciSearch ® example.

The Library Services Alliance of New Mexico has signed a licensing agreement with Academic Press to provide electronic journals directly to the end users' digital desktops. Authorized users can view, search, print and download complete articles in the Acrobat format without restriction for personal use or course packs, or for internal company business purposes. The license provides access at all sites within a licensed consortium to all the journals formerly held in print form anywhere within the consortium. Alliance libraries that currently have access to the journals are Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), New Mexico State University and Sandia National Laboratories. Access began with the complete 1996 issues (and some 1995 issues) and is currently available from the Academic Press server and from LANL library which is loading all electronic journal issues on its local server, and linking articles to the SciSearch® at LANL database making them available to participating Alliance libraries.

In my own organization we did not join this initiative at the time. Decision making was more cumbersome as an independent library, the UNM Health Sciences Library, was involved due to an AP stipulation that the contract must include all AP subscription of a site. More teams and committees were involved which slowed down decision making. Risk taking was spread over more than one jurisdiction and individual, and no single champion was given authority to make decisions for all the groups. Contrast this with the previous example, which actually involved much more risk as well as more money.

In fact, I am questioning some precepts of shared decision making in this type of process, and most of my concerns lie in the difficulty of providing information about consortial processes to all stakeholders continuously and consistently. It seems to me that libraries, especially team-based libraries, need to develop three types of decision processes:

  1. one for dealing with consortia and joint ventures ("project-based decision making"?)
  2. one for external issues involving the campus, politics, and the budget ("executive decision making?)
  3. one for internal self-managed groups ("front-line to cross-functional decision making"?)
I hope we can discuss the lessons from this for team-based decision making and risk taking during the question and answer section, keeping in mind the currently accepted ways in which teams make decisions. The latter has been well described by Karyle Butcher (1997).

4. New Ways of Working and Acting - For Individual Librarians

"Accept ambiguity and uncertainty. Perpetual change is crucial if organizations are to survive, which means you must be able to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. You won’t be able to achieve much closure. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DETERMINING YOUR OWN JOB DESCRIPTION and be quick to recognize when it changes in response to new realities." (Pritchett 1996)

Creative Collaboration.

Creative collaboration in organizations is almost a prerequisite for fast consortial decision making. It means, among other things, not always having to be afraid of stepping on others’ toes nor of over stepping your authority. Curiosity fuels every great group. Forming or becoming part of such a group should be our goal.

Bennis and Biederman (1997) say of such groups:

" Many great groups are fueled by an invigorating, unrealistic view of what they can accomplish."

" Great groups always see themselves as wily Davids toppling the Goliaths of convention."

You and your group may have to act this way if you want consortial products and leading edge services.

Influence.

It is important to understand that one can have influence without having a position of power, and influence is more important than power, especially in a chaotic and complex decision making situations. (Figure 5)

Thus not having power is no excuse for not making or advancing consortial decisions.

Figure 5.



Power and Influence:

HOW YOU REPORT = YOUR POWER BASE

HOW YOU NETWORK = YOUR POLITICAL BASE

HOW YOU COOPERATE = YOUR EFFECTIVENESS
 
HOW YOUR SERVICES ARE ORGANIZED AND DELIVERED = YOUR CREDIBILITY

ALL TOGETHER = YOUR INFLUENCE

Adapted from Johann van Reenen. 1995. "Library cultures in conflict: exploring new roles for librarians." Serials Librarian, v.25, no.3/4: 181-192.


An example of building influence, is the work our group did with faculty liaisons over a two year period. We succeeded in moving the shared understanding of the group from resisting journal cancellations to becoming partners in deciding strategies, not only in creating cancellation criteria, but on how to participate in national initiatives to curb the growth of rapacious publishers. This was accomplished through sharing budget information frankly, education sessions, including a symposium on scholarly publishing, and really listening to faculty’s concerns.

The threat of incrementalism:

As dangerous as doing nothing in times of change, is to make only incremental changes. Already I fear libraries has lost the real benefits of technology through incrementalism and by automating existing library functions. We have seen little staff savings due to automation and we are still involved in processing and cataloguing huge quantities of materials in-house. Bruce Heterick (1997) says: "These incremental implementations provide very little relief to a process, and industry, that requires exponential change." " We must ... recognize the elements that are truly changing our profession - technology and human interaction."

Stop / Start / Continue :

As we are not in control of the external change agents, our only hope is to benefit from chaos. Heterick says:

"If recent history has taught us anything, it has taught us that real change only occurs when an existing process stops." (Heterick, 1997)

Often it is required that we stop some activity or paper copies of an information source so as to acquire an electronic consortial product. In fact, we should actively look for consortial agreements and joint ventures which is non-incremental and allow us to abandon some existing processes or information sources.

5. Advice From a Slow Learner

I have lived through some major health sciences center mergers and restructuring in the mid-1980’s, as well as re-engineering projects at the University of British Columbia in the early 1990’s, and have learned some personal lessons that I will be presumptious enough to share with you:

So here is some advice from a slow learner:

ADVICE FOR PARTICIPATING IN CONSORTIAL ARRANGEMENTS OR JOINT VENTURES:

THEN, Begin to behave differently at work: 6. Conclusion

How can we best adjust internal decision making in libraries to facilitate consortial leadership?

My experience show that timely and innovative consortial decisions can be made when:

7. References:

Bennis, W, Biederman, PW. 1997. Organizing genius: The secret of creative collaboration. Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley.

Butcher, KS. 1997. "Decision making in a team environment." Library Administration & Management, v.11, no.4:222 - 230.

Chakravarthy, B. 1997. "A new strategy framework for coping with turbulence." Sloan Management Review, v.38, no.2: 69 - 82.

Choi, YB. 1993. Paradigms and conventions: Uncertainty, decision making, and entrepreneurship. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

 Collins, J. 1996. "The Classics. The complete guide to the best business and management books ever written." Inc. v.18, no. 18: 53-61.

Devlin, K. 1991. Logic and Information. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Drucker, PF. 1969. Age of discontinuity: Guidelines to our changing society. Oxford: Heineman.

Gayeski, DM, Majka, J. 1996. "Untangling communications chaos: a communicator’s conundrum for coping with change in the coming century." Communication World, v.13, no.7: 22 - 25.

Handy, C. 1989. The age of unreason. London: Century Business.

Heterick, B. 1997. "The law of change in the networked environment." Serials Librarian, v.31, no.3: 3-12.

Lissack, MR. 1996. "Choas and complexity - - What does that have to do with knowledge management?"

Henley Management College, UK: http://www.lissack.com/writings/knowledge.htm : pp.19.

Kirby, JP, Hughes, D. 1997. Thoughtware: Change the thinking and the organization will changes itself. Portland, Or.: Productivity Press.

Krantz J. "Anxiety & the new order." ISPSO Papers. 30 Nov.1995. http://www.sba.oakland.edu/ispso /html/krantz.html ; 15 p.

Overman, ES. 1996. "The new sciences of administration: chaos and quantum theory." Public Administration Review, v.56 no.5: 487-91.

Pritchett, Price. 1996. New work habits for a radically changing world: 13 ground rules for job success in the infromation age. Dallas: Pritchett & Associates.

Rose, EL, Ito, K. 1996. "Knowledge creation through the internal information market: an integration of total quality management." Quality Management Journal, v. 3, no. 3: 87-102.

Stewart, TA. 1997. "Brain power. Who owns it ... How they profit from it." Fortune, v.35, no.5: 105-10.


jreenen@unm.edu © J. van Reenen 1997
http://www.unm.edu/~csel