Common Stacks Episode 18: Jami Yazdani on Agile in libraries

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Jami is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with more than 16 years of experience managing a portfolio of innovative projects and planning initiatives. She has a proven track record of leading diverse and collaborative teams and excels at facilitating consensus and keeping (even reluctant) teams on track. Jami also has extensive experience designing and delivering engaging face-to-face and online training sessions.

Over a diverse career spanning roles in business, libraries, and public higher education, including over a decade in leadership (Director) and management positions, Jami effectively led teams, championed change, and empowered staff. Jami has also actively served on the boards of several nonprofits and professional associations, working in leadership (Chair and Vice-Chair), marketing, programming, and mentoring functions. 

Jami brings practical experience, management expertise, a love of spreadsheets, and a sense of humor to project management, planning, and training.

Learn more about her at https://yazdaniconsulting.com/

Share with us any action items or things you learned during this show in the comments section below! 

Rough Transcript of Episode 18: Jami Yazdani on Agile for libraries

Heather (00:07):

Hello, and welcome to the Common Stacks podcast. This is the show that brings together professionals from within the library world, as well as interesting experts from other professions to engage in discussions around issues, affecting libraries, looking at the ways in which libraries are dispelling the myth of, well, this is how it's always been done. I'm your host, Heather Tesco. This is episode 18. It's a conversation with Jami Yazdani talking about Agile for libraries. A quick reminder, this podcast is sponsored by Library Lever, a brand new library buying club. We negotiate vendor discounts on library products and services, specifically seeking out new and innovative mission driven companies, offering services for both public and academic libraries. And we have a super unique client wellness program that ensures that our member libraries are seeing value and usage of their resources. Part of that wellness program includes access to our growing Library Lever Academy, a suite of professional development tutorials designed to educate and support library staff on topics, including secondary trauma, stress grant, writing, conflict resolution, library, marketing, and more. Learn more about us at LibraryLever.com.

Heather (01:18):

Now onto Jami. Jami is a certified project management professional with more than 16 years experience managing a portfolio of innovative projects and planning initiatives. She has a proven track record of leading diverse and collaborative teams and excels at facilitating consensus and keeping even reluctant teams on track. She also has an extensive experience designing and delivering, engaging face to face and online training sessions over a diverse career spanning roles in business libraries and public higher ed, including over a decade in leadership as a director and management positions, Jami effectively led teams champion change and empowered staff. She also actively served on boards of several non-profits and unprofessional associations working in leadership chair and vice chair, marketing programming, and mentoring functions. She brings practical experience management experience, a love of spreadsheets and a sense of humor to project management, planning, and training. And I'm super excited to dig into this conversation on the whole philosophy of agile and how libraries can implement agile ideas and trainings into their own workplace management strategies. So let's hop right in.

Heather (02:35):

So Jami, I first found you because you have this interesting consultant directory that you built, which I think is fascinating, but and I wanna talk about that in a second, but I also, while looking at you, you're an agile scrum master and yes. So can you tell me a little bit about your background and how like I'd like to get into this whole agile thing? Cause I, yeah, I think libraries would, would love to know more about this. So,

Jami (02:59):

Yeah. Yeah. So I was a librarian. I actually started out in college in circulation roles and after college moved into a full-time circulation role, then went to get my library degree. And then I was in libraries for maybe I think it was like 15, about 15 years. And I was a reference librarian, a technology librarian, a library manager, and a library director. And I spent most of my career in administration and, and director roles. And so in that time I managed a lot of projects as all as librarians manage a lot of projects. And so after I left higher ed, which was, I was an academic librarian, I decided to start a consulting company. And I first focused on kind of leadership development, cuz that's a passion of mine and training, but then people kept asking me to manage projects like I would get in, in conversations with prospective clients and they would sort of see that I had this skill for that and I seemed organized.

More...

Jami (04:09):

And so I thought, you know, I'm really good at managing project. So I went ahead and got my project management professional certification, which is kind of the standard project management certification. But then I developed an interest in agile, the project management Institute just maybe a year or so ago released their version of agile, cuz there's all these different types of agile and people get very wedded to them and excited about them. And so they released their own, which is called disciplined, agile approach. And so I, I have a certification in that. So I'm a Disciplined Agile Scrum Master which sounds, I think much more <laugh> sword wielding than it actually is. <Laugh>

Heather (04:57):

It's like a pirate or something I was scrum. So for people who don't know what agile is, can you explain what it is and how library, well, we can get into how libraries can use, but what is it to start with?

Jami (05:13):

Yeah. So traditionally project management has worked under what is often called a waterfall framework where you know exactly what you're building. When you start a project, you plan for it. And as a project manager, that's really your role is to do a lot of really intense planning. You get the best plan that you can get and then you execute on that plan. Only making changes if you know, something sort of goes wrong. Often outside of the project, but many folks in particularly technology industries and kind of the way products are developed in, in manufacturing these days felt that that didn't work for them. So if you're constantly releasing you know, beta versions of a, of a software, if you want to have new features that you're rolling out every six months or a year, that's not how you can manage a project. And so agile grew out of that as sort of a response to traditional project management.

Jami (06:16):

And it really was tech folks, usually software developers who got together, they wrote a manifesto who doesn't love a manifesto and they, you know, started sort of agile. And if you Google agile manifesto, you can, can read their manifesto. But that spawns a lot of different types of agile or flavors of agile and scrum is one of them. The disciplined agile is another lean is, is sort of an agile methodology. So there are all these methodologies and it's really just an approach to managing work managing projects, but it tends to be a little less traditional than plan execute, deliver. It allows for that incremental development.


Heather (07:01):

Yeah. And I'd like to talk, bring that into, you know, your library work because oftentimes it seems like with libraries, it is that much more traditional. We have, especially if it's like grant work or something, we have this plan, we have these metrics we need to meet, we have this we're, we'll check back in a year and see how it's going and, you know, write maybe quarterly reports, things like that. But that's, that's different than this sort of agile framework. So how can libraries bring some of this thinking into a more traditional setting, especially like if there's grant work or something that there's a timeframe that, that needs to follow that. H how do you mix those two?

Jami (07:42):

Yeah. And so I do think, you know, one of the things I often tell people is all of these are just frameworks and really you should be deciding what works best for your project. And so there absolutely are projects. Like if you're building a building, that's a pretty traditional, you know, what you need to know at the beginning, what you're gonna get at the end. Right. but a lot of the other work that libraries do can benefit from at least agile principles, even if you're working on a more traditional life cycle where you start a project and sort of end a project, a couple of the kind of tenants of agile that I think are really useful, particularly in library pro projects are this idea of earlier stakeholder feedback. So one of the sort of agile principles, because they're continuously delivering is that they kind of run these short sprints.

Jami (08:37):

And so you'll do a sprint, get a bunch of feedback from your users. Let's say you release a feature, get feedback, see what people think. Then you use that information to go onto the next sprint or round. And so I do think that earlier stakeholder feedback is something libraries can a absolutely do because often we build something, then get feedback. So you release your new service, you release some kind of new technology and then ask people how it's going. If you can ask people along the way, even if it's just to have a mock up, you know, kind of an idea of what, what it is, you're building get some feedback from your users early, then you're able to make changes before you deliver a final product. So thinking about getting stakeholder feedback information from our patrons and users really early, I think is, is absolutely something that folks can do. 

Heather (09:37):

And that's interesting, because that could tie into as well with like awareness campaigns too, because if you have like a new resource coming, don't just wait until the very end to say, Hey, we have this resource, but if you actually like start to build that kind of excitement and get feedback and things like that, then the public's more aware of what's going on. So it seems like there's different sorts of departments, I guess that could be involved with this type of framework rather than just straight project management

Jami (10:03):

Sort of. Right. Absolutely. Yes. And it is, you know, getting stakeholder feedback is great for advocating for your library. It lets people know what you're working on because often we're working on things for a significant amount of time and until our users are, are delivered, whatever that thing is, they don't know that it's happening. And so if we are engaging people earlier, they do get excited. And that also, you know, there's a, an agile kind of method known as fail fast. And so the idea is that if you get that earlier stateholder feedback and you realize something's not working, you can fail fast rather than spending a year working on something and fail at the end. And so I do think failing fast though, is challenging in library environments because there tends to be a bit of a perfectionist attitude. You know, we've gotta get this perfect.

Jami (10:58):

We have to write the policy for every contingency. You know, what if aliens invade how are we going to manage our collection, that, that sort of thing which in one sense, I think is, is great about some library folks that they're thinking ahead about all of the, the possible things that could go wrong. But I do think it prevents us from failing fast. We wanna deliver a perfect service or collection to the user. Whereas if we were willing to do a little beta project, maybe just implement something at one branch, instead of all of them, see how it works and then make changes. I think it would really benefit us and our, our users.

Heather (11:42):

And so you're talking now about using this kind of framework public facing, what about within the library itself between administration and staff and, and that kind of internal communications and internal projects? How can do you find it's easier to do it, those type, that type of thinking to change it internally because there's not the public sort of feedback or what do you think about that? Yeah,

Jami (12:06):

Sure. Absolutely. Because a lot of times, well, particularly with technology projects, I often let in libraries, my users, the end users were the library staff, right? Like we're implementing something that they're going to be using. And so you could absolutely try this internally, but another agile, there are several other agile approaches that I think can work in libraries, but would sort of require us to think differently about the hierarchy. One of the really core agile tenants is collaborative self organizing teams. And so when a lot of agile approaches the project manager or leader manager, doesn't say, okay, Heather, you do this task and, and, and Jose, you do this task. They say, these are the tasks we need to get done and you get to select and you organize amongst yourselves. And I think that's something that is, you know, kind of a back back of the house approach that absolutely we could do more of. And so instead of feeling like we have to assign tasks, say, you know, this is what we're working on, who wants to do this aspect of it, who would like to take this on. And I also think that's a great way to allow our staff to grow because people can step outside of their traditional role. So that's another kind of behind the scenes agile approach.


Heather (13:36):

Hey, I hope you're enjoying this conversation. If so, hop into our free community community dot library, lover.com to chat about how you can implement some of these agile strategies into your workplace. And what kind of differences do you notice, or do you notice any differences between doing this in like a public library setting versus an academic library setting are the, because the stakeholders are different? Does it,

Jami (14:03):

Yeah. I mean, I, I have to say I'm not aware of lots of libraries doing agile in a in sort of a real way, or at least they're not talking about it in that way. And often you are seeing agile in often the large academic libraries that have these big technology groups who are building technology. So it's, it's kind of hard to say, but, you know, I don't think any of it is, it is something that can't be done in either environment. I do think that often it is easier in an academic environment to get stakeholder feedback because your users are kind of a closed group. Not that academic libraries don't have public users and things like that, but your primary users it's not a county, it's not a, a city full of people.

Heather (14:59):

It's not necessarily like city councils that need to approve things or it's kind of a different sort of cycle with that.

Jami (15:04):

Right. Right. And so I do think that can make it a little easier to get stakeholder feedback. But I absolutely think there are a lot of libraries who have been doing wonderful things around public libraries around engaging their communities. The collaborative self organizing teams could happen anywhere on the smallest staff to the largest. I do think that, yeah, the stakeholders tend to be different, but I, I think any of those principles could happen anywhere. So yeah.

Heather (15:39):

So where could people learn, like other than hiring you, where can people learn more about implementing agile thinking? Are there any like resources that you would recommend?

Jami (15:51):

Yeah, so I actually really like the disciplined agile scrum master certification that I received because I do think it gives you this broad overview of the different types of agile and not that folks need to get that certification, but PMI, which is the project management Institute has made a lot of that information accessible on their website. So I think that gives a really good overview. There are some books out there on project management, you know, generally that I think have agile you know, as kind of a main, main topic. And so, you know, reading some of those, I really think there are also trainings. I know I,

Heather (16:37):

I really, basically people should hire you. Right.

Jami (16:40):

<Laugh> well, they could, they absolutely could. That would be wonderful. And yeah, there are lots of places that there's there's information about. Well, and I think it's something that libraries are starting to

Heather (16:52):

Gotcha. Look at.

Heather (16:54):

So speaking of hiring you, that brings me to consulting and how I found you as you post about this consulting directory. And I love that it's something that the old consortium that I worked for for a long time, we always wanted to implement something like that. This was like 10 years ago, longer than that, like 2007, 2008. And we wanted to have like a Yelp for consultants kind of thing. When I saw yours, I was like, oh my gosh, somebody did it great. Tell me how you came up with this idea and how, how people sign up and all of that.

Jami (17:22):

Yeah. So when I started my consulting business four years ago, I, I thought there really should be a, a library consultants directory. And there is one out there, but has a bit of a different model. And so this whole time I've been thinking somebody should do that. <Laugh> and then I, I also work with nonprofits and in the nonprofit community, there are these wonderful directories of consultants that also create great communities for the consultants to really get to know each other, share tips, share referrals. They bring in, you know, kind of nonprofits and have education for them. And so there are these wonderful models in those spaces and I'm involved in those. And I kept thinking, somebody should do this for libraries. Somebody should do this for libraries. And then finally, I thought, I guess thought that's me, that's you we're person that's me.

Jami (18:16):

Yeah. So, so I ju it just launched. We're still in beta. So it really has, has barely been up I think, three weeks. And so it's, it's a new, it's a new venture, but for libraries, it's absolutely free to join, although you can search without joining. I, I wanted to reduce that barrier for, for libraries to be able to find a consultant, contact them and, and move on without, without creating an account. But there is some benefits to free membership for libraries. And so we're, we'll host events. It's easier to contact consultants. You can do it kind of from the directory, you can contact multiple consultants at a time. And so there are some benefits there for the consultant community, which is really where I'm putting my energy right now to bring consultants to the directory first. I really want it to be a supportive community.

Jami (19:09):

And so we have a discussion forum, private discussion forum for consultants. We're having our first consultants only event in September. That information's about to go out online. It's a great branding expert. That's coming to talk to consultants. And so I'm really excited about it. It is something I've been thinking about for four years. And so to see it come, you know, come to fruition is really exciting. So yeah, I'm, I'm really glad that, that it interested you. And I've gotten a lot of folks who say, oh yeah, this, this makes a lot of sense, but the perfectionism is still there. I've spent way too much time tweaking small details <laugh> so, so, but we may fail fast we'll we'll see. Right. So,

Heather (19:55):

Right, right, right. No, that's fantastic. So that link, or I'll put that link in the show notes, but can you just say it too, for people who

Jami (20:02):

Are yes. It's consultants for libraries.org. And so we also work with consultants and museums and archives as well, but it's consultants for libraries do org.

Heather (20:13):

So,

Jami (20:14):

And it's all, but we're in beta, we're in beta. So it's still new, you know, we're still gathering consultants, but we're live.

Heather (20:21):

So, yeah. And so it's all like consultants of, do you have a particular, like, is it just like outreach or marketing people or just technology, like any kind of consultant that does

Jami (20:30):

It's really any kind of consultant? I'm starting to reach out to certain types of vendors as well. And so, you know, I'm thinking of consultants pretty broadly. Although I imagine most of them will be consultants working in management planning, project management, marketing, kind of the traditional air training, traditional areas. We think about consultants working in. But there could be safety consultants. There could be architects and other types of planners and

Heather (21:03):

Programming,

Jami (21:03):

Emergency programming. Yes. people in the emergency kind of space, DEI consultants. So yes, there's, there's a broad range of categories that, that folks can list themselves in. And, and so I'm hoping it will be a little bit bigger than just what we think of as the traditional kind of management consultant. Right.

Heather (21:26):

Fantastic. Is there anything you want to throw into plug or anything that I missed?

Jami (21:32):

<Laugh> no, I, I appreciate the opportunity. I love talking about agile. As you said, people can hire me to, to help them figure out how to do agile or traditional projects or planning in their libraries. But I'm also happy to just talk about agile and project management. Generally. It really is a passion. I believe project management is for everyone. It's not just construction people and folks in big technology companies. It's for all of us. So I'm happy to have those discussions anytime.

Heather (22:04):

That's awesome. Thank you so much.

Heather (22:09):

Thanks to Jami Yazdani for her time, learn more about her at https://yazdaniconsulting.com/. I'll also have a link in the show notes. What actionable steps did you get from this episode? Hop in our community or drop as a voicemail librarylever.com/voicemail and let us know LibraryLever.com/voicemail. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much. And we'll speak again soon.

About the author 

Heather Teysko

Heather Teysko is head of community and engagement for Library Lever, and she loves running the Common Stacks Podcast. She's been in Library Land for close to 20 years, with a career that has focused on technology and ebooks. She is also passionate about history, having built a website on Colonial American history in 1998 that got to #1 on Yahoo (when that was a thing) has been podcasting on Tudor England since 2009, and her podcast The Renaissance English History Podcast has a social following of over 50,000 people. She has published several books including Sideways and Backwards: a Novel of Time Travel and Self Discovery, which was negatively compared to Outlander in several Amazon reviews, despite the fact that it is set in a completely different time period, but the comparison still feels like an honor.
You can follow her on twitter @teysko.

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