QQML 2012: Impact of Unfinished Business


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Colleen S. Harris, 2012 Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Libraries presentation, Limerick, Ireland.

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QQML 2012: Impact of Unfinished Business

  1. 1. Impact of Unfinished Business:The Zeigarnik Effect, OrganizationalEffectiveness, and Academic Library Management Practices Colleen S. Harris Assistant Professor & Head of Access Services University of Tennessee at Chattanooga colleen-harris@utc.edu
  2. 2. Bluma Zeigarnik, 1927CC license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoetnet/5337695316/
  3. 3. The Zeigarnik Effect• The tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete. – (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008)• “Need” to complete a task once initiated; lack of closure promotes continued task related cognitive effort. – (Greist-Bousquet& Schiffman, 1992)
  4. 4. Organizational Change & Development• Evolutionary change – Natural developments prompting change• Revolutionary change – External developments requiring organizations to change to survive (Burke, W. W., 2011)
  5. 5. Why Libraries?• Professional context• Access• Multi-project environment• Possible management issue• Possible success issue
  6. 6. Library 1 Basics• Library at a mid-size (10-15k) public university in the South• 16 librarians, 14 staff• Flat organizational structure• Institutionalized transparency
  7. 7. Library 1: Organizational Change• New building• Org chart in flux: (every new position gets thrown out and matched to goals)• Institutionalized goal setting & tracking practices• Institutionalized transparency
  8. 8. Library 1 unfinished objectives & consequences• Unfinished objectives: – Tracked at 6 month review and annual review – Closed as “abandoned” or tracked on performance reviews• Consequences – Institutionalized in performance review system – Decisions by consensus
  9. 9. Library 2 Basics• Library at a large (30-40k) public research university in the South• 40+ librarians, 80+ staff• Highly hierarchical organizational structure
  10. 10. Library 2: Organizational Change• New building• Goal setting and tracking left to individuals – No institutionalized reporting mechanism• Institutionalized silo-ing – Size – Competition
  11. 11. Library 2 unfinished objectives & consequences• Unfinished objectives – Not tracked, leading to overcommitment – Occasionally forgotten until they come up in the context of a new project• Consequences – Only if visible; temporary and uneven
  12. 12. Mitigating Factors• Transparency/Information sharing• Organizational clarity (in terms of goals, performance management, etc.)• Cooperation
  13. 13. Limitations• Convenience sample• Difference in size• Differences in available documentation (transparency factor)• Focus on processes/work & not individuals
  14. 14. Implications• In times of budget cuts – Increased canceled projects; longer turnaround time for projects and work• For organizational development – Need for a mechanism for formal closure to unfinished tasks – Dangers of leaving goal setting, tracking, and reporting decisions to individuals or departments
  15. 15. Implications (continued)• For professional practice – Commitments to transparency and iterative goal/task reviews• Questioning the multi-tasking professional as a development goal• For individuals – Cognitive load/ cognitive stress
  16. 16. Future Research• Small-n Action Research agenda• Developing best practices libraries• Large-n survey agenda• Control for size and organizational culture effects
  17. 17. Colleen S. Harris University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Lupton Library colleen-harris@utc.edu@warmaiden (Twitter & other social networks)