Top 7 Strategic Planning Lessons from the Library of Virginia

Everything I needed to know about strategic planning I learned from the Library of Virginia.

Okay, not really.

Each plan we complete for a client is such an amazing gift – and I mean that. Learning as much as possible about a client in a short period of time is always achallenge. Some of the learning might be a bit dry – audits, bylaws, code mandates – but each engagement offers unprecedented opportunities to dig into something really awesome about our region, or an industry, or a group of people. I've learned more about Central Virginia from strat egic planning than any number of sessions, readings or research.

Here are seven important lessons I’ve learned from my work with the Library this year.

1. The Library of Virginia is the amazing place you have never visited. You might have seen the building on East Broad Stree t, but have you ever been in? Have you ever seen the exhibits - the most recent was the Hatch Show. Have you ever been upstairs to look at what they have to offer? Over the years I had visited the Library several times but never the actual library portion. Go explore.

2. Writing for people who work in a library is like writing for your college English professor. I have spent more time googling grammar questions and looking up the definitions of words. Librarians and those who make a living helping people research information are very intentional about their words. This is a good reminder to reduce language down to its most essential. Adjectives and adverbs can be helpful but make sure they are not distracting.

3. Order is important. My three year old daughter is in the thick of understanding that she must turn four before she can turn five despite what she wants. But the order in which things are portrayed, even in draft form is important. If you have four outcomes that are even, then spending the time to make a graphical representation is worth your time. The lesson: Write with the most intention.

4. Self-awareness makes work easier. Floricane has worked with the Library of Virginia over the past 18 months on leadership development and organizational change. Part of that work has been around InSights, a self-discovery tool that helps individuals understand their leadership personality. Working with a group that has high self-awareness and others awareness is great! There are times when my concentration on getting things done could get in the way, but knowing that and deffering to others who are happy to let a group wrestle with an issue until they are ready to move on is the true leadership skill. Group process is outrageously hard but amazingly rewarding if it is well managed and has the right tools.

5. First-hand exposure pays dividends. Part of my work in discovery was to take a six-hour tour of the Library spending time in each of its parts including areas not typically open to the general public. There is by far no better way to understand an institution and its nuances than to take a staff guided tour. This lesson also applies to boards and staff – engaging your key stakeholders in the tangible ways you fulfill your mission will be time well spent. I heard this idea at a work session a few weeks ago and it directly applies, cancel your next board meeting and take them for a bus ride, or a tour of your building. Let those who you wish to engage internally and externally touch and feel your services. You are sure to create ambassadors faster this way than by giving them statistics and data.

6. Find your passion. At the Library of Virginia collecting, managing, and providing access to information is the very most important thing they do – and they love it. Keeping this at the forefront of the discussion helps ground the key parts of their plan. Aspirational dreams and true organizational stretches live beneath your hedgehog - or the thing that you do best. Focus your time and energy on what you are great doing.

7. A great plan gives equal footing to clarity, focus, and boldness.  Within the next week as we move from a framework to a meaty plan the Project Team will tire from me saying those three words, but they are absolutely true and essential to keep in mind.