Month: April 2017

Knowing When to Change

It is the time of year when we are aligning budgets and strategic plans across our organization in anticipation of the new fiscal year.  Some look at these times in an organization’s year and instinctively call for changes in practice, following the dictate that change is hard, and yet necessary. In their work Great by Choice, authors Jim Collins (of Good to Great fame) and Morten T. Hansen tackle this question by looking at differences in how very successful (what they call 10X) companies and a list of comparison organizations change their basic operating practices over time.  They found that the 10X companies had clear practices that allowed them – even in times of great disruption – to continue to “do the same thing that you are already doing well, and over and over again.”  The authors explain further by saying, “Conventional wisdom says that change is hard.  But if change is so difficult, why do we see more evidence of radical change in the less successful comparison cases?  Because change is not the most …

No Better Place to Become a Citizen

Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time. Last Wednesday I was in Arizona for work at the Petrified Forest National Park.  But first, a colleague and I attended a naturalization ceremony that the park hosted at the National Historic Landmark Painted Desert Inn for nine new citizens and their families and friends. It was Americana at its best.  No, it was more than that.  It was deeply moving as nine people made a life-changing decision to establish a new home in a new land. A local girl scout troop – with a diversity that “looked like America” – acted as the color guard.  The Honorable Deborah M. Fine, other federal officials, and Park Superintendent Brad Traver, made remarks that got to the heart of the privilege and responsibilities of citizenship.  Several speakers noted that there was no better place to become a U.S. citizen than a national park – America’s “best idea.”  A recording of America the Beautiful took your eyes to the desert and the spacious skies, bringing chills …

The Blessing of Silence, Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote about the blessing of silence, meaning “quietude” as opposed to the “silencing of voices.” Rebecca Solnit, in her most recent collection of essays entitled The Mother of All Questions, notes that silence is crucially different from quietude.  The latter speaks to the absence of noise – which is sought – while the former speaks to the absence of voice, which is too often imposed. Little did I know that the Friday before my last post on this topic, the Harvard Business Review had published an article entitled, “The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time.”  My colleague Barb Gibson sent along the HBR article which began with a quote from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates who argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter, in a call to “get beyond the noise.”  It isn’t just writers who suggest that periods of silence are valuable.  Medical researchers have found that “taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our mind to be more …

Clarity of Vision

We all benefit when we are clear about what matters. I  have always admired the clarity of vision that comes through the work and writings of Morris Vogel, the retiring president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.  Morris is one of my colleagues at the National Trust, and I value our professional relationship.  On a personal level, Morris is someone I look to for both advice and inspiration. In these days when the nation is – once again – struggling with its checkered history on immigration, the Tenement Museum has stepped time and again into these conversations in ways powerful, relevant and timely.  I found the following statement, which Morris recently shared with his board and staff, a great reminder of how clarity of vision and mission is so important in finding one’s voice. “Tenement Museum leadership in the museum field means that our colleagues at other institutions regularly ask how we handle difficult issues, and we’ve recently fielded requests for information about how we determined our pro-active response to the government’s refugee ban. …

Opening Day

Today saw a near-perfect opening day for the Nats and their fans. Strasburg pitches seven strong innings and gets the win. Harper homers.  Adam Lind – in his first swing as a Nat – pinch-hits the game-winning two-run homer. Blake Treinen gets a 3 up, 3 down ninth for his first save as the new closer. Andrew and I had good seats along the third base line and enjoyed a cloudy but mild spring afternoon. A beer.  Some brisket. A win.  What could be better? More to come… DJB  

Seeing Opportunity in Every Difficulty

Today is opening day for the Washington Nationals.  If the president really wanted to make America great again, he would declare opening day of the baseball season a national holiday.  It could be a celebration of optimism and new beginnings. I find that a clear-eyed optimism is an important element for a balanced outlook on life.  While former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson spoke for one approach when he said, “I’m an optimist, but an optimist who carries an umbrella,”  one of his predecessors as prime minister – Winston Churchill – probably did a better job of hitting the nail on the head. Churchill, who governed during some of the darkest days of civilization, said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Circling back to baseball, fans for every team in America are optimistic (clear-eyed and otherwise) on opening day.  They know that in years past teams have gone from “worst to first” in one year (see Atlanta Braves, 1991), so it could happen again.  Heck, even …