Chapter 9 Using the Results in Planning
"Interpretation is a complex task calling for reflection and judgment. The findings focus
discussion, but the committee will need to think both analytically and creatively about the
meaning and implications of the findings." (McClure et al. 1987, 23)
Looking-Around is completed, and the report is written and distributed--now, what? The
next step is to study the results and begin the decision-making that will result in a plan for
the library. This is one of the most difficult--if not THE most difficult--transitions in the
entire planning process. At this point, groups are tempted to develop a plan that does
what they always wanted to do, rather than a plan that is based on the findings of the
This section provides general suggestions for approaching the process of studying the
results and making decisions. It also presents three tools from which library planners can
select to help the Planning Committee focus its discussion and decision-making.
Levels of Effort
The level of effort for this step will be the same as the level of effort the library has used
for Looking-Around. If the report is a completed WorkSheet #1 (A-D), then the process
will be basic; however, if there is a comprehensive report to review, the process will be
carried out at a more extensive level of effort.
The Planning Committee should review the Looking-Around report with careful
consideration. Each member should read the report ahead of time, setting time aside to
examine the results and think about the implications for the library and its future. Each
person should consider where the library is now, the needs of the community, and how the
library's plans can be shaped to best respond to those needs. Then the committee should
come together and work as a group, discussing the findings, listening to the perspective of
others, and working through a structured process to make decisions that will result in final
decisions about the library's mission, priority roles, goals, and objectives. The committee
may want to spend more than one meeting discussing the implications of the findings.
Overview and suggestions
McClure et al. (24) offer some guidelines for this process:
- First, both factual and subjective information are important. Planners should combine
impressions and opinions with hard data, looking at information from both
perspectives and comparing the results.
- Second, watch for surprises. In other words, challenge your assumptions. The
information that contradicts what everyone thought may indicate some of the most
important areas of change needed.
- Third, try to place all information in perspective. Compare library performance data to
that of peer libraries or historical data for the library to help understand its meaning.
View the information in context.
- Fourth, libraries that have conducted surveys should remember that surveys are not
ballots. The library staff, board, and Planning Committee may have more information
than those who completed the survey. View the results of surveys, focus groups,
interviews, and any other activity in which people expressed an opinion as important
but not binding; however, also remember that their responses reveal a great deal about
perceptions about the library. Use that information in other ways to shape the library's
communications plan to inform people about the library.
The library's plan will be based on the decisions that are made during these discussions.
This stage of planning is hard work; however, if it is done well, the rewards will be worth
the effort. There are several approaches to analysis of the results.
Translating the findings
In Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries, (McClure et al. 1987, 23) the authors
suggest one simple approach to analyzing the results of Looking-Around. Using
WorkSheet #8, the Planning Committee should:
- Note the major findings in the Looking-Around report.
- Discuss how those findings might have an impact on the plan, either in terms of
building on a current strength or identifying a potential for change.
- Determine what opportunities are identified that the library can exploit.
- Consider how the library might respond to those findings.
Individual committee members might jot down their own responses on the form when they
review the report on their own, and then the form can provide the basis for structured
discussion and subsequent decision-making by the committee as a whole.
Analyzing strengths and changes needed
Another structured approach in decision-making is to analyze the strengths and changes
needed as revealed in the report of Looking-Around using the WorkSheets #9 (A-D).
Once again, working individually and then as a group, the committee can review the
Looking-Around findings, discuss the various individual interpretations of the information,
and come to consensus about the appropriate priorities to serve as the focus for the
library's services and management during the coming planning cycle. The WorkSheets
provide a framework for making planning decisions by having Planning Committee
members consider current strengths and changes needed in each of the following areas:
- Goals from roles: Considering possible priority roles for service, what does the
Looking-Around report tell the reader about strengths and changes needed to
implement the various roles?
- Who--The people the library serves: Based on the information available about the
people who live in the communities served by the library, what does the
Looking-Around report tell the reader about the strengths and changes needed to reach and
serve various population groups in the community effectively?
- What--Services the library provides: Based on the information about the library's performance and the services it now provides, what does the Looking-Around report
reveal about the strengths and changes needed to provide library services effectively?
- How--Management functions to improve the delivery of service: Based on the available information, what does the Looking-Around report tell about the strengths
and changes needed in the way that the library is managed for service to the public?
The steps in using the WorkSheets include:
- Have each person read the report individually and jot down his or her own thoughts on
each of the WorkSheets.
- Meet to discuss individual responses, recording the key points of the discussion of
each area (roles, who, what, how) on flip charts.
- Following the first session, have a subcommittee analyze the results of the discussion
and group the issue areas as reflected on the flip chart.
- Present the subcommittee's analysis of the discussion at a second meeting of the
committee and use the information to make decisions about priority roles and goal
areas for the plan. At subsequent meetings the group can refine the goal statements
and develop objectives for each of the goals.
Using WOTS-Up to identify priorities
A third process that a Planning Committee can use to guide the discussion and decision-making
is called the WOTS-Up process. WOTS is an acronym for Weaknesses,
Opportunities, Threats, and Strengths; WorkSheets 10(A&B) guide the user in the process. It is
an excellent tool to use in synthesizing the information gathered and will help the Planning
Committee identify a multitude of issues and then narrow them to the few that are most
important. Those decisions will help the committee develop a final mission statement,
select priority roles, and identify goals and objectives for the plan. Having a person
experienced in facilitation or group consensus building to guide the group activities in the
process is helpful, but with the following outline even a novice can successfully use
Here is a list of the terms used in the WOTS-Up process with a brief definition of each:
- Internal factors: Those that relate to the library and its relationship to other libraries
- External factors: Those that relate to the community at large
- Weaknesses: Current negative factors
- Strengths: Current positive factors
- Threats: Future negative factors
- Opportunities: Future positive factors
- Impact: A measure of the "breadth" of importance. How basic is the factor? How many other things depend on it or are related to it?
- Consequence: A measure of the "depth" of importance. How bad or good will it be if you:
Maintain the strength
Take advantage of the opportunity
Fail to correct the weakness
Do not adequately address the threat.
- Immediacy: A measure of the importance of time. How much time is available:
Before the strength will be lost if it is not nurtured
To correct the weakness before it causes severe damage
To take advantage of the opportunity before it disappears
To prepare for the threat before it's too late to address it successfully.
Before the first Planning Committee meeting to review the Looking-Around results, ask
each member to review the report and prepare a WOTS-Up Planning Issues Analysis
Sheet (WorkSheet #10B) for each major issue they identify in the report. Then have them
bring the sheets to the meeting to help the discussion.
The steps in the process:
- Break the Planning Committee into at least two groups. Assign two quadrants of the
WOTS-Up Analysis Sheet (WorkSheet #10A)--the quadrants are strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities, and threats--to each group. Make sure that each group has
one positive and one negative quadrant and one present and one future quadrant.
- One group should have strengths and threats, and the other should have weaknesses
and opportunities. If there are more than two groups, assign the quadrants in the same
- Ask each group to brainstorm in its assigned quadrants, using the sheets they prepared
ahead of time and anything else they have learned from reading the report about the
community, its people, and the library. In brainstorming, they should consider both
internal and external factors (see definitions above). Remind the group of the rules of brainstorming:
As many ideas as possible are listed
Ideas are not discussed until all ideas have been listed
Ideas are not criticized for their creativity or practicality
All ideas are recorded even if they seem redundant.
- Provide flip charts and markers to each group, and have them record the points as they
are raised. The recorder should make sure that all the ideas are written using the same
words used by the person who originally verbalized the concept.
- After the brainstorming, debrief the full group by reviewing the results of each
brainstorming session. End on a positive quadrant.
- After the debriefing and any discussion, ask the groups to take their original list and
identify the priority strategic issues using impact, consequence, and immediacy as
defined above as the criteria. Suggest as a "rule of thumb" that they work to reduce
the list to about 20% of its original length in each quadrant, but to no less that three
- After a debriefing and discussion of the priority strategic issues, have them discuss
how the library will respond to each to build on a strength, take advantage of an
opportunity, repair a weakness, or deter a threat. WorkSheet #10A, the original
WOTS-Up Analysis Sheet, can help at this stage, too.
- The results of the discussion should enhance the framework (discussed at the end of Chapter 4)
upon which the library board can develop the library's goals for its long range plan
Proceed to Chapter 10 - Resources.
|| Return to Beginning of Chapter ||
|| Table of Contents
CAMEO Home Page