Month: July 2018

Plans vs. Planning

This is my season for strategic planning.  Last week I spent a full day with our colleagues at the National Trust Historic Site Filoli for their strategic planning retreat.  As you read this, I’m on a plane for another retreat with 20 team members designed to scale up one of our most important organizational initiatives.  When I return, I have a half-day financial planning retreat set for early August. That’s a lot of planning! There are some who say that strategic plans are useless. They generally throw around the phrase “no plan survives contact with the enemy,” which is a popular adaptation of a phrase uttered by Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, also known as Moltke the Elder. He was a German Field Marshal who lived between 1800 and 1891 and is credited with creating a new approach to directing armies in the field. This entailed developing a series of options rather than simply a single plan.  Note that he didn’t stop planning.  He simply recognized that in changing environments, you need options and …

Baseball at (or just past) the Break

NOTE:  This was a post I meant to finish a week ago.  Then life intervened. In the past three weeks I’ve checked two items off my baseball bucket list and saw the most amazing comeback in my 40+ years of watching this always fascinating sport.  We’re now a little more than a week past the all-star break, the traditional midway point of the baseball season, so it seems appropriate to unleash a few thoughts on you, dear readers, in reverse chronological order to the way they happened. The All-Star Game is Great Fun:  Washington hosted the 2018 MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park earlier this month. Almost by a fluke Andrew and I scored great seats.  A colleague—who is British—was given two tickets by a former colleague of his from National Geographic. (Remember that Nat Geo is now owned by FOX, which was televising the game.)  Not caring a great deal for the American pastime, he offered them up to me. For free! Which is how Andrew and I landed in section 133 in fantastic …

Collaboration Moves at the Speed of Trust

Earlier this month I attended a conference where speaker after speaker inspired the attendees while addressing some of the key issues of our time.  My notebook was filled with thoughts and information.  However, one note—a  Chris Thompson quote—stood out for me above all the rest. “Collaboration moves at the speed of trust.”  This simple assertion has been playing around in my mind ever since.  When I came to the National Trust more than two decades ago, I recall sitting in a meeting where I asked a colleague why she was not engaging others in the organization on a particular project.  Her response was, “I don’t trust them to do the job to the standard I want.”  It struck me as a telling remark on a number of levels, but this long-ago exchange was one of the first thoughts that came into my mind when I heard Chris Thompson’s quote. This colleague—a wonderful person who now runs a successful one-person consulting firm—was upfront in admitting her lack of trust.  And that lack of trust meant that …

Resilience

There’s an old saying that goes, “The only constant in the world is change.”  That may be hard for some in historic preservation to accept, but I’ve often said that our job as preservationists isn’t to block change, but instead to work to manage the type of future—and communities—we want. I was thinking recently about the concept of resilience when facing change.  Author Kathleen Smith has suggested that “Many people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid change, but it will inevitably catch up to them.”  When building personal strategies for strengthening resilience, she begins with the Stephen Covey construct of the ”Circle of Concern/Circle of Influence”, urging us to focus on what we can control.  She also encourages her readers to check their thought patterns. “In times of change, it’s easy for your mind to cut corners. You might see everything in black or white, or you assume the worst will occur. But if you take the time to examine your thought patterns and assess how rational they are, you …

Be Present When Serendipity Strikes

It was a flight like dozens of others I’d taken in the summertime: delayed due to thunderstorms, with the prospect of climbing into bed much later than planned. When I finally boarded the flight from Nashville after a day’s work on our campaign to save Music Row, it barely registered that my two seatmates had stashed guitars in the luggage bin. This was Nashville, after all. I mumbled a couple of hellos, and promptly fell into my customary power nap. Waking up thirty minutes later, my laptop was opened as I started work on a project that was overdue. Only after returning to my seat later in the flight did I exchange real conversation with the woman seated in the middle seat, between her boyfriend and me.  I asked what type of guitar she played.  She replied, “One’s a harp guitar and the other is a flamenco guitar.”  Bing!  I suddenly woke up.  Harp guitars are pretty esoteric instruments, and those who play them approach their music with religious zeal.  They also tend to be …

Freedom

Walking back from today’s July 4th parade in Takoma Park, I overheard two women — both wearing an “I Care Do U” sticker — talking about the diversity seen in this progressive enclave from the participants in this most all-American of holidays. There’s your medical marijuana advocates, Christian evangelicals, 9/11 truthers, Republican and Democratic candidates for county executive, the First Panamanian Marching Band of Maryland, Doggie Washerette, the MAGA (Mobsters are Governing America) PAC, all the public works vehicles (love the lawn mower guy spinning around in circles), Boy and Girl Scouts, the Intergalactic Female Motorcycle Federation, the Silver Spring Yacht Club, and the Takoma Park Lesbians and Gays all mixed together. And don’t forget about the Reel Mower Precision Drill Team. There’s a lot of chatter in the right wing entertainment universe these days about political correctness shutting down free speech.  But today’s experience in Takoma Park shows that this narrative about the progressives not hearing from different voices isn’t necessarily true.  Everyone had their say, everyone was treated with respect (if some were …

The Value of Ritual

Do you have a morning ritual? If you look at the Wikipedia entry on ritual, one might wonder why I’d ask the question.  Ritual is described as inflexible, where one is governed by rules, and the term is sometimes used by psychologists in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior that is seen as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorders. That’s not my experience with ritual.  Writing in Forbes, the author Alexandra Douwes encourages millennials to establish a morning ritual.  Her reasoning is aligned with mine. “Establishing a morning ritual, preferably one that does not involve a screen, can set the tone for your entire day. Whether your morning ritual takes place at home or in the office, it’s important to ease into your day, and do it on your own terms. Before you let external factors such as screaming children, urgent emails, and smartphone notifications send you into a state of anxiety, start the day by focusing on the things you can control. A consistent morning ritual will put you in a proactive versus reactive …