RLI 278 14
March 2012 research Library issues: a QuarterLy report froM arL, cNi, aNd sparc
BRinging ScenARio PLAnning Home To KU
group provided for their respective scenario’s strategic options and in how their input was described on
the corresponding Post-its. As a result, when the larger group worked with these materials to identify
broad strategic options, it was challenging to make reasonable comparisons or determine points of
These challenges eventually ground efforts to a complete halt. The facilitators took this opportunity
to stop the process and open up a frank discussion on what alternatives in workshop process might
make more sense to the group and move us forward productively. Real-time recommendations evolved,
based on the materials we had available and the needs revealed while attempting to work with these
pieces. Based on all suggestions from workshop participants and facilitators, we experimented with other
workflows not specifically outlined in the workshop guide. This included a question-and-answer period
for groups to obtain further information from one another and use of a round-robin reporting technique.
The round-robin process was particularly effective. Prior to implementing it, each group presented
a comprehensive reporting of its own robust strategic options. There was often considerable overlap of
ideas across groups and it was time-consuming to hear the same information reported over and over
again. With the round-robin technique, we moved quickly from group to group, each time contributing
one new option that was not currently on the board. The result was a faster compilation of ideas without
unnecessary duplication. Eventually, through this type of small- and large-group interaction, the
attendees pulled together a set of strategies with the potential to work across the envisioned set of future
When the ARL scenario-planning project was initiated, we envisioned a relatively seamless movement
from scenario-planning outcomes to the development of KU Libraries’ next strategic plan. The university,
however, launched a comprehensive campus strategic planning process during the same time period.
In an effort to align the libraries closely with the campus vision and direction, we delayed further local
action after the workshops. Our goal was to delay library planning until we had a thorough knowledge
and understanding KU’s future directions. Fortunately, the libraries sought and achieved considerable
opportunity to participate in the campus planning activities, and we were able to bring insight from the
scenario project to the broader campus-wide discussion.
As a result, we did not lose the benefits of the scenario-exploration efforts while waiting for the
campus plan, titled Bold Aspirations,3 to unfold. The strategic thinking associated with analyzing the
scenarios, and the in-depth exploration of alternative futures, influenced our contributions to the campus
plan. It also created an ideal foundation for the libraries’ own strategic-planning development that would
soon follow. The power of the scenario exercise existed in the transformational nature of the process, not
in achievement of a final product.
When the completed KU plan was announced, the libraries chose to model their own strategic-
planning efforts directly on the campus process. This included a Strategic Planning Steering Committee
with broad, library-wide representation. The committee oversaw and coordinated the efforts of multiple
working groups. The committee also drew heavily on the goals and strategies from the Bold Aspirations
document, in order to shape the focus of the libraries’ planning work.