Term Paper: Strategic Assessment

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Strategic Assessment

The purpose of King County Library System (KCLS) is to provide a distribution center for equal access to information resources and to coordinate these in such as way that value to the community would be maximized. Specifically, the community is to be provided with a highly sophisticated level of materials and services, with a renewed emphasis on quality and service.

With this in mind, the mission statement of the organization could be something along the lines of the following:

KCLS's mission is to provide the highest quality of access and service in terms of information resources; taking into account the needs of its patrons in an equitable and highly sophisticated way. For this reason, the organization will be the county's main source for reference information, while continually focusing upon meeting the changing and growing informational, educational, and cultural needs of the community it serves.

The key organizational stakeholder groups include the library's patrons, without whom it would not exist, as well as line staff, branch personnel, middle management and senior management. The Library Board is the main stakeholder, which commission Ptacek to build upon a prior finding regarding the population growth and demographic diversification of the county. The voters in the library district are also an important stakeholder group, as they provide the funding required to not only maintain the service offered, but also to implement the necessary plans for the library's future growth to service its community.

A further stakeholder group is the underserved and unserved parts of King County, which would be benefitted by the six new libraries and twelve replacement libraries proposed. All these stakeholders must therefore be taken into account when strategic changes are implemented. Patron satisfaction is the primary concern, while personnel satisfaction must also be taken into account, since they serve on a team whose satisfaction directly affects the quality of service to users.


There are two main external factors currently affecting the organization; these include the population growth in the county, with concomitant demographic and other changes; as well as technological advances. In terms of the first, it is required that the library expands its services to cater not only for an expansion in its customer base, but also for the various demographic groups that will become part of the community.

In terms of technological advancement, the library can use this to streamline its operations in such a way as to optimize its services and reach its mission goals in terms of excellence.

Both these factors will create significant challenges for the organization. The first, for example, will require thorough research into the needs and requirements of the community, especially where significant demographic changes have taken place. Books and other library materials will have to be ordered to cater for the specific groups identified, where these have not been properly serviced in the past.

In terms of technological advancement, implementing new library systems will not only be challenging in terms of helping patrons work with them, but also in terms of personnel training. Furthermore, funding will have to be allocated for the proper implementation of these systems.

Internally, there are also two related factors that have a significant impact on the organization and its ability to effectively operate as an integrated and effective whole. These include the hierarchical management structure of the organization, as well as some amount of conflict and dissatisfaction arising from the current management system. These are not new problems, as there have been complaints from both management and branch staff for as long as three years regarding the internal business system of the company. These issues are a definite hindrance to the organization's ultimate success in terms of its mission and mandate. Implementing a new plan now would simply serve to make the situation worse and create a risk around the survival of the organization and the accomplishment of its goals.

Having said this, however, it is also true that company has many strengths in its favor. One major strength is the requirement that all librarians have a Master's degree in Library and Information Science, or alternatively a Washington State certification qualifying them as librarians. When staffing the system's 38 branches, the access of the organization's management team to the four graduate programs in Library and information Science at the University of Washington in Seattle counted as a great strength. The library system staff recruited in this way were therefore dedicated and excellent to start with.

In short, two strengths are therefore the excellence of the library personnel, and the education level required to qualify for such a position in the company. This is one of the reasons why it is important to retain these staff members.

One of the major weaknesses the library suffers is its hierarchical leadership structure. Although this structure has been traditional among public library systems, its shortcomings are becoming increasingly obvious in terms of staff satisfaction and operations excellence. The Library Board, for example, provides over-arching guidance, while the director supervises the daily management of the system within the library. Together with the Board, the director provides long-range goals for the library, while also implementing long-term priorities. The assistant director, in turn manages the Public Services Department.

The main weakness associated with this system is, however, that there is a definite lack of communication among the various hierarchies. This has resulted in a sense of dysfunction among staff members as they relate to leadership. Senior management directives, for example, are provided to area administrators on the basis of various separate meetings. One of the main sources of the current personnel unhappiness is the director's Administrative Councils, or DAC, which serves as the senior management team. This team was created by Bill Ptacek's predecessor and has been in effect for decades.

This lack of change in the management system, even in the face of necessity, is another inherent weakness in the company. Even Ptacek himself made very few changes in this system when he arrived at the library. All formal decisions are concentrated within the DAC, consisting of eight individuals. Although there are other committees by means of which communications are maintained among senior management and staff members, one does have the feeling that these exist mainly to communicate mandates to staff members, rather than as a two-way communication channel by which staff members could voice their concerns when these arise.

In summary, two main weaknesses are therefore the basic lack of communication among staff members and senior management, as well as the lack of change in this system, even in the face of such change being necessary.

Opportunities are offered by external environment factors. Advancing technology can, for example, provide a an opportunity for the library to offer more sophisticated services to its public. Being an information center, access to the internet and other electronic format sources can be a valuable addition to the library's more traditional sources such as films and hardcopy books. Online films and e-books have been two of the most recent advances the library can use to its advantage.

Another opportunity offered by the external environment includes the growing customer base in the county. The population growth has been shown to be significant not only in number but also in terms of demography. There are a large number of unserved and under-served customers from which the library could benefit by expanding its services.

The library's main challenges therefore arise from both its internal and external environment. Internally, the challenge is to create a highly functioning communication system, by means of which both staff and management can communicate effectively to retain the excellence of staff by enhancing job satisfaction.

External challenges include implementing electronic resources that reflect the technological advances in the information industry. This will take some investment in terms of funding and work hours, where staff will have to be trained in the use of implemented technology. The factor of population growth also offers the challenge of determining the needs of the new demographies that the library will begin to serve by expanding its branches within the community.


Before it can, however, implement effective changes with regard to its new mission and mandates, the library will have to deal with the main strategic issues it faces. One of these is the video loan period change, which created a large amount of difficulty for staff members and the library's operations. The issue surrounds the expansion of the video loan period from two to fourteen days. In addition, it was also decided that patrons who borrow fiction videos were free to place holds on videos throughout the system. In addition, the videos would also be mailed to the patron's home, just like books were.

The strategic problem resulted in problems when attempting to serve customer demand in terms of video loans. The library could no longer supply the full demand, as the video shelves were constantly empty. This created not only difficulty for staff members, but for customers as well. Although the new policy to mail the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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