Leadership Challenge #3

Module 3 Ldc reflection on provocative question #2

Provocative Question #2 (LdC)

When/why do I hold back from participating? When/why do I commit to solving problems by myself?


Reflect on module 3 LdC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

What behavior did you experiment with/try out for your leadership challenge last week? “This challenge I want to take a step back, look at the major projects ahead, and pick one to apply the “small wins” mentality to.”

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week? I don’t feel particularly successful in implementing my leadership challenge as envisioned. I tried to work collaboratively with my leadership team to identify a project. I got a lot of pushback against the idea of “small wins”, the excuse being that they wanted a big win and are tired of small progress. So, instead, I have been deliberately thinking about how to define my own role in large projects, so that I neither take everything on by myself or delegate it all to someone else. An example of this has been work on hiring a new building manager for one of our main libraries.

Reflect on module 3 LdC Step 4 – assess and reflect on your leadership challenge

How did your change in behavior affect others in your Community of Practice? Tell the story of what happened.
I was very excited about the idea of small wins as a means of encouraging participation by a broad group of people in large, complex, and daunting tasks. It was disappointing, then, to get such negative response from my leadership team; as a result, I pulled back from trying to encourage the whole group to do this, and instead focused on how I could moderate my own behavior to allow for both my own participation in projects and that of others.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module. 
In my leadership meeting I suggested that we take a large project and break it down into its component parts, which would allow us to identify who might work on each part and what our timeline would be. The response I got was immediate and negative; the leadership wanted to attack the whole question at once, and as a group. We have had a lot of change in our organization over the last year, and I think there is a significant amount of project fatigue in my community. Although progress is lovely, tempers are short and emotions are high. They claim to want immediate gratification, with little planning. At this point I can’t even remember what project it was that we were discussing. It was extremely frustrating.


Module 5 LdC Steps 1, 2 and 3 on provocative question #3

Provocative Question #3 (LdC)

How can I positively influence my CoP through participation in “broader configurations of networks?

Step 1. Prepare for an on-line Conversation

Quotes/ideas from Wenger Page number
Brokering is a common feature of the relation of a community of practice with the outside… Inside organizations, people in charge of special projects across functional units often find themselves brokering… Brokers are able to make new connections across communities of practice, enable coordination, and – if they are good brokers – open new possibilities for meaning. 109
The connections that tie communities of practice may take intentional forms, such as the deliberate straddling of boundaries by a supervisor… 128
To say that communities of practice must be involved in the design of their own learning is not to suggest that a local perspective is inherently superior. Recognizing that communities of practice will generate their own response to design does not imply that they must be left to their own devices. Indeed, communities of practice are only part of the broader constellations in which their learning is relevant… In the process of organizing its learning, a community must have access to other practices. Designing for learning always requires new connections among localities…” 234
The field of negotiability will affect how communities of practice direct their allegiance. It will affect how their members perceive the scope of their influence and the purview of their contributions. It will therefore affect what they attempt to understand, what problems they try to address, and how they direct their inventiveness. It will affect what they do with the information and resources that are available and what information and resources they seek. Most of all, the field of negotiability will affect what they care about because they can have an effect on it.” 248
The mutual accountability derived from pursuing a joint enterprise and the interpersonal relations built over time together make the sharing of information necessary, relevant, and tailored… Communities of practice are thus nodes for the dissemination, interpretation, and use of information… It is therefore often useful to have communities of practice that cut across other types of locality, … so that knowledge travels naturally across the landscape… This idea requires multimembership to be elevated to an organizational principle. 252
I have also argued that organizations must learn to recognize the value of people whose multimembership allows them to be brokers across boundaries. 255
To be able to have effects on the world, students must learn to find ways of coordinating multiple perspectives. This observation is rather commonplace. What is not so widely understood is that this ability is not just a matter of information and skill… Rather, it is a matter of identity – of straddling across boundaries and finding ways of being in the world that can encompass multiple, conflicting perspectives in the course of addressing significant issues. Exercising this sort of identity is a result of participation in a learning community challenged by issues of alignment. It is one of the most critical aspects of education for the kind of world we live in. 274-5
The paired ideas of constellations of communities and multimemberships as a core component of identity are the themes in these quotes; it is in the brokering across boundaries of constellations through leveraging my multimemberships that I influence the local and the global environment.

 Applications from workplace setting:

 In my current roles as associate dean and department head I am very aware of my brokering roles within Libraries & Educational Technologies and across JMU more broadly. For example, this week we had a regular meeting of the “A-Team” (associate deans and associate vice provosts), which I think I’ve discussed before as a nascent CoP. In that meeting we had a presentation about companies that are predatory recruiters for our undergraduates, and what we can do about them. One place these recruiters show up is the library, as they can get students to reserve study rooms and hold interviews there. I was able to confirm in the meeting what the libraries’ practice is with regards to groups like these (we kick them out), and heard that a central university office would like notification when we do so, for their records. After the conversation in A-Team I was able to take this new information back to Public Services Leadership, and had a different discussion reiterating our policies and practices (mainly informed by their practice, but with the additional recommendations from the A Team meeting). Leadership then did some light training for the student workers, and reified policy through a standard communication channel, to bring new members of the community into the standard practice. This leveraged my multimembership in A Team and in Public Services (where I’m a peripheral member) to spread and reinforce knowledge and practice to a group of which I’m not really a member at all (the student workers’ corps in Public Services).

This week (as noted above) I applied to the permanent associate dean position that I’ve been inhabiting for the last seven months. In so doing I thought a lot about the fundamental brokerage nature of this role. Wenger has the four components of CoP (meaning/community, practice/identity) in his model. Being an AD is sort of similar – there are the practice/vision and internal/external axes. So although the executive team (the Dean and three associates) are ourselves perhaps a CoP (or a nascent one), the constellation of CoPs to which I belong is pretty complex. What I am realizing is that to be good at my position – as defined by success in supporting that practice/vision and internal/external model for goals, products, culture, process, learning/development, etc. – I have to be able to move across boundaries in an effective way, spreading knowledge as I go.

Step 2. Hold an on-line Conversation

Fishbowl notes: Group 2 (Karen, Amanda, Jonathan S, myself)

My first observation is that technology and time are significant barriers, in some cases, to the smooth creation of a community of practice. If one of the things we are trying to do in this program is to construct our cohort as a community (which was discussed earlier in the semester), the ability to connect in time and space and learn from each other is important. This week it was very difficult to find a time when all four of us (it would have been even harder, but unfortunately one of our group had to drop out of the program so we are four instead of five) could meet – three different timezones, varying home situations, and busy worklives being what they are. Then, when we did manage to get together the first time one of our group had significant audio problems, and the group leader’s computer wouldn’t let her record. So in the end we were able to get together early Saturday morning (very early for my colleagues west of me) and do it. As an example of trying to leverage broader networks this shows some of the difficulties.

I enjoyed our conversation, though. It was interesting to me that we all picked out different quotations from the Wenger book, and had differing interpretations of them. I really liked how Karen started us out with thinking about our networks extremely broadly – not just our networks at work, but about this fishbowl exercise itself as an example of a learning event from which we can take information back to our Cs of P. I really like that idea, though it was not one I’d considered, and can see that even functional things like using YouTube Live (which I now know how to do!) could be useful at work.

Our discussion about silos and how we can break across boundaries to spread influence (which I would also interpret to be learning, in the context of this week’s reading, or of information/knowledge, in the whole context of the book) was very interesting. At first we felt a little stymied by the idea of reaching across these silos, but I feel better after the conversation, and hope my group members do to. Amanda’s example of reaching outside her comfort zone and making an extremely fortuitous connection was a great way to conclude that thought – and the fishbowl.

Takeaway: thinking imaginatively about my constellations of communities and multimemberships opens up many learning opportunities for myself that I can then take back to the Cs of P of which I am an influential (as opposed to peripheral) member.

Step 3. Determine your Leadership Challenge

Expand your social network to include knowledgeable individuals beyond your workplace setting.

Progress this week: I contacted the authors of two articles that I have found particularly interesting in my literature review so far. Thomas Atwood at the University of Toledo is a reference & instruction librarian interested in library support for transfer students. Drs Melissa Gross and Don Latham are faculty at the FSU School of Communication & Information who study information literacy skills in undergraduates, and have used a previous iteration of the MREST as their test instrument. All three of them are happy to speak with me, and Thomas in particular is eager for an opportunity to build a network of librarians interested in transfer students. I’ll be talking with Thomas by phone on Wednesday 2/15 and with Melissa and Don by Skype most likely the following Wednesday. I am also hoping to make a connection with a faculty member at George Mason University (right up the road from me) who has published on transfer student topics (outside libraries).


Step 4. Implement and Reflect

Module 5 LdC – Reported in the next report.


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