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Case Study: The Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library (Lyders, 1979)

The Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library began to consider MBO in March 1977. It did this because the library’s newly appointed manager clearly defined work and responsibilities, and began to try managing work by measuring its effectiveness.

First, when the introduction study began, the participants knew almost nothing about MBO. For about 6 months, the heads of all the library’s departments consulted with each other for about 1.5 h each week to consider MBO. Because they knew that it would not be enough to simply list the objectives and actions of library work, they started to introduce MBO in July 1977 by reconsidering the simple objectives they had originally set. The MBO system that they had considered extensively up until then was limited to managing the performance of each organisation within the library, but they realised they should have been focusing on the overall organisational objectives and work set instead. In this way, the library staff members’ awareness of MBO changed from ‘simply a tool to set objectives’ to a ‘management process for the entire library’. This led to a second attempt at starting the project introducing MBO.

Second, the managers of the library referred to the works of Drucker to reset the objectives for the second attempt at starting the project. Drucker stated that the mission of a business must be defined based on its market and customers, and wrote, ‘Discover your public’s needs, and you will have defined your service objectives’ (1954). Focusing on this idea in particular, they defined the mission of the library’s services, established four domains to support the mission, then measured the effectiveness of and selected the department in charge of each respective domain.

Third, they built an MBO navigation system. The library managers required this to ensure accountability. They used this system to set annual action plans and evaluation indices for each goal, then began to implement MBO based on this.

The library staff members devoted about 870 h to the MBO project over a period of 18 months. Library staff involved in the project spent more hours conducting other work. The cost of introducing MBO was also extremely high. It was very difficult to perform work to concretise the pre-set goals in order to establish the system. For these reasons, it was considered unreasonable for only library staff to apply MBO, and essential to employ an experienced consultant.

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