Implementation

When I was sorting through the stuff in the attic, I came across a folder labeled “Internet” with lots of articles c 1993 and 1994. One was a concern by Susan Keitel, then executive director of the New York Library Association, who feared that too much information might “end up in the hands of private businesses, whose fees the libraries won’t be able to pay.” Ask any public librarian, and she or he will tell you that has happened to some degree, that the digital divide does exist, especially for those in rural areas who are difficult to connect. Still, the Internet trudges on.

Also in that folder was an newspaper column by Tom Peters (“Peters on Excellence”) entitled “Everything you ever wanted to know about implementation explained.” It has less to do with the Internet, and more about the nature of organizations.

His top implementing secrets:

Listening. I’ve been in enough organizations that SAY they listen, that they “value” your feedback but you KNOW that’s not true, to recognize the efficacy of this.

Naivete. I highlighted, “You have to let go of preconceptions and hear old laments as if for the first time.” I tire of people who complain about those afraid of change; for many, change is scary. Instead of belittling, try assuaging the fear.

Curiosity. “Never, ever stop asking: ‘Can you help me understand this better?'”

Thank you – “the two most powerful words in the English language… Nobody ever tires of being cared for and appreciated.

Information. I highlighted: “All people crave information and, even more, being ‘in the loop.'” Too true, especially for me.

Talk the walk. “The leader’s chief role is to add coherence to the ambiguous world.”

Just do it. “The reason most plans are a joke is that, in truth, nobody knows nothin’ about nothin’. So the only way we can make any progress is to do something – and then see what happens.” I had a great talk with our intern’s teacher this semester. I try to ascertain the intern’s interests, our needs, and see where they connect. It’s like jazz in that there’s a structure, but one never plays the notes quite the same way.

Screw-ups. Peters quotes Kevin Kelly, who writes, “Evolution can be thought of as systematic error management.” A phrase I hate greatly is “Failure is not an option.” Failure is inevitable; what one does with it is the key.

Get their attention. “The idea is to make it impossible for folks to avoid ‘customer stuff.'”

Exuberance. “If you … can’t accept the fact that nothing goes according to plan, you’re in trouble.”

Sage stuff.

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