We Graded Ourselves. Two F’s—Ouch!

Cat-U Report CardGood idea? Bad idea? We weren’t really sure. We  didn’t like the idea of “grades”, and thought the whole thing might be a waste of time. But as co-founders and business partners of Catalog University, the only real oversight we get is what we give ourselves.

Our goal was to document the discussion because we believe that documenting what we are doing, good and bad, would help us make better decisions in the future. And, what the heck, we are a university so we decided to frame it like a report card.

With some trepidation we set up eleven areas we need to focus on: Pub Talks, Dean Communication, Social Media, and so on. Then for each we asked:

  • What grade do we deserve?
  • What can we do to improve?
  • What are we doing well?

Some areas we could quantify so the grade wasn’t arbitrary. Some were more of a gut check than anything else. Without exception we both agreed on what grade we deserved, even when it was an F. Not surprisingly the F’s were pretty obvious, but they also gave us the most room for improvement. Even a discussion of the A’s kicked up a whole bunch of new ideas. B’s were the difficult since we didn’t think we were doing a bad job, but we weren’t knocking it out of the park either.

FYI: The A’s were both in areas that we had focused most of our attention on, but were they really the areas that were going to move us forward?  One yes, one maybe. The bigger eye opener was that one F was for a KPI (Key Performance Indicator). Ouch is right, but our report card showed us that we needed to fix it, and we did, FAST!

Asking ourselves “What we can do to improve?” made us focus on each area’s potential. Usually the answer to “What can we do to improve?” came back to time, effort, or resources.

Asking “What are we doing well?” allowed us to gauge if we could realistically improve our grade and framed a discussion about what was already working.

Being honest with ourselves wasn’t always ego gratifying but it really moved us forward. We ended up 2 A’s, 6 B’s 1 D and 2 F’s, AND a laundry list of action items, along with a new respect for each other. It was a fabulous exercise and one we plan to repeat each month.

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Sarah Fletcher & Janie Downey
Co-Founders, Catalog University