On My Mind
This is the time of year when many leaders of organizations reflect on the strategic objectives they accomplished and those they didn’t accomplish. They also think about the priorities going forward. Reflection is a skill that isn’t typically developed in people even in world class organizations. You are not likely to here the phrase, “Don’t just sit there, reflect!” We seem to favor action over reflection. I read the following passage by Vine Deloria, Jr. each year at about this time. It is in the introduction to one of the versions of the book Black Elk Speaks: “The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom comes to stand out in the crowd of ordinary maxims.” One of the more interesting reflection tools is the winter count described by Roberta Carkeek Cheney in her book Sioux Winter Count. A significant event is chosen each year which is then depicted (drawn) on a buffalo robe: “This chosen historian [a tribe member] had learned the story of each event from his father and his grandfather, who in most cases had been the historians before him. Now it became the responsibility to help choose an important event each year and to represent it with a drawing on the [buffalo] hide. It was also the historian’s duty to interpret the drawings for anyone who had need of the record, and to teach the people in his tribe their history by means of the winter count. The original [buffalo] skin remained in the possession of the historian, but it could be copied if another member of the group wanted one for more ready reference.” I encourage you to take the time this year to reflect deeply on your accomplishments. You might even begin the annual tradition of using the winter count tool.
I witnessed two white-tailed deer bucks squaring-off recently. They slowly approached each other, gently locked-up their antlers, and then began to push each other. I was surprised how calm–and seemingly respectful–the bucks were during the event. If only the people in some human endeavors such as business and politics could be so respectful during competition.
An improvement roadmap is a tool that visually depicts what happens when in order to improve an organization. It can be one of the most valuable tools that a leader can use. I will be conducting a public seminar January 10-11, 2012 titled, “Deployment Planning for Continuous Improvement: The Art of the Roadmap.” The major take-away for participants will be a draft improvement roadmap. Please send me an e-mail message if you would like a brochure.
Leaders of organizations who develop and execute strategies should at some point review them. “Were our strategies effective in helping us accomplish our strategic objectives?” The book Evaluating Strategy, edited by Patricia A. Patrizi and Michael Quinn Patton, is extremely useful for gaining insight into how to evaluate strategies.