Libraries and Alignment - it's vital, vital, vital


Moon and Sun aligned

Seth Godin (remember him?) has just written a blog post about alignment. It's well worth a look.

Alignment is very important to libraries (the SLA are devoting lots of resources to this subject). In particular we need to spend more time ensuring we align our language with those of our stakeholders - and that may mean seperate language for our customers, and for those who hold our purse-strings. So we must promote our services to customers in terms they understand and relate to, and we must demonstrate our value to internal stakeholders by using their language, their terminology, and by focusing on factors they see as vital for measuring success as well as the ones we traditionally use.

(This is a tricky issue because, for example, if the big bosses still see footfall as a good measure of a library's use then we have to balance the need to align our idea of success, with the need to educate them as to why footfall as a metric for library use is hopelessly outdated and no longer fit for purpose.)

Seth's post is about the alignment of expectations and, particularly interestingly for me, the negative aspects users will put up with if those expectations are met. Here's a quote:

The Walmart relationship: I want the cheapest possible prices and Walmart wants to (actually works hard to) give me the cheapest possible prices. That's why there's little pushback about customer service or employee respect... the goals are aligned.

The Apple relationship: I want Apple to be cool. Apple wants to be cool. That's why there's little pushback on pricing or obsolence or disappointing developers.

The search engine relationship (when it's working): I want to find what I'm looking for. You want me to find what I'm looking for, regardless of the short-term income possibilities.

Compare these to the ultimately doomed relationships (if not doomed, then tense) in which goals don't align, relationships where the brand took advantage of an opening but then grows out of the initial deal and wants to change it:

The Dell relationship: I want a cheap, boring, reliable computer. You want to make more profit.

The hip designer relationship: I want the new thing no one else has yet. You want to be around for years.

The search engine relationship (when it doesn't work): I want to find what I'm looking for. You want to distract me and take money to send me places I actually don't want to go.

The typical media relationship: I want to see the shows, you want to interrupt with ads.

Alignment isn't something you say. It's something you do. Alignment is demonstrated when you make the tough calls, when you see if the thing that matters the most to you is also the thing that matters the most to the other person.

So - you can guess where I'm going with this. What is the library relationship now, what should it be, and what will users put up with (with very little 'pushback') if their expectations are met? Think of this as an open thread - I'd be really interested to hear your views in the comments.

- thewikiman