Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Children and Change

I've been reading Ann Crittenden's If You've Raised Kids, You can Manage Anything. (Her The Price of Motherhood is also pretty interesting, in the Feminine Mistake vein.) When I do accidental library management workshops, I always mention raising children as one way people gain management experience without necessarily realizing it, so I'm finding this pretty entertaining.

To wit: this bit about managing change:
Marshall was teaching her baby to eat solid food when it first hit her that her two jobs -- as a bureaucrat and as a mother -- had a lot in common. In both instances, when trying to introduce something new, it was better to start with something bland -- not too hot, not too cold. And definitely not with anything spicy the might irritate the system.

With both babies and bureaucracies, the unfamiliar must be tried slowly, or mixed with something already known and liked. With both there is also a tendency for certain flavors to be popular for a brief period to the exclusion of all else. With a small child, this might be macaroni and cheese; with an economic development bureaucracy it could be a fad such as microlending. This is not good -- a balanced diet and balanced programs are better.

Babies and bureaucracies can also balk at something that is good for them, be it vegetables or diversity. If you try to slip this unpopular item in on them, they may notice immediately, and spit it out with gusto. Screams and tantrums are not unheard of. Whether nurturing an infant or a bureaucracy, you first have to spoon the food in and, when they spit most of it out, you have to scoop it up and push it back in. As a rule, the faster the food goes in, the more will eventually reach its ultimate destination. A pause will give a baby or a bureaucrat time to think and play and spit even more out.
If you're already familiar with management books, pick up a parenting book or two and prepare to be amused at the way the material's repackaged. Crittenden describes attending a 3-day management seminar where the well-known presenter confided over lunch that a good chunk of his material came from the field of child psychology, although he knew better than to mention this in front of a group of high-powered executives.

When we talk about implementing change and moving toward Library 2.0, it might be interesting to use a bit of child psychology to help make the transition more palatable.

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