It's the end of March, and after a winter like no other, I am ready for spring. More appropriately, I'm ready for the exit of the month that is truly worth of the phrase "out like a lamb."
As always, I think about systems. How can you make your outputs result in "out like a lamb"? Well, sometimes, you have to endure some difficult winter-from-hell throughput to get there. Decisions, rework, arguments, office politics, waiting, disappointment, and detours all come with the territory. Whenever an accomplishment is worth creating a system around, there will be challenges. Think of them as the unmended potholes in your accomplishment commute.
Often, in our "instant gratification takes too long" society (thanks, Ellen, for making me smile with that phrase), we may tolerate the "in like a lion," but then we want to by-pass the next 29 days and short-circuit everything to arrive at "out like a lamb." Systems... accomplishments... life... they don't work that way.
What is the accomplishment you desire as output from your current system? Are you willing to endure some "March Madness" to help it come out like a lamb?
It's been a little quiet from me the past couple of weeks. (Well, many of you were on spring break, so I doubt you missed me all that much... after all - tequila shots and warm breezes were calling.)
The past month has been fun for me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm now contracting full time as a project manager. Yes, it is fun... this is the kind of stuff that gets my adrenaline going.
While the schedule has been an adjustment, the activity is just like riding a bicycle. Project plans, status reports, meeting minutes, issues logs, risk management. You never forget.
Some have asked me why I took a detour from the speaking and writing to go back to a full-time cubicle-dwelling contract for a few months. (The reality is that it isn't much of a detour as I still have a speaking schedule, and I'm in talks about my next book, but I digress.) The biggest reason I agreed to take on this contract can be summed up in two words: "street cred."
It's the same reason a successful actor agrees to do an independent film at a reduced rate, or why an athlete will join in a pick-up game of ball. As a project manager, I never want to get too far away from my roots. I don't want my expertise to be academic. As a Chief Accomplishment Officer, I'm wired to DO, to PERFORM, and to ACCOMPLISH.
So for a few months (as long as my client and I agree that I'm adding value to the project and to the organization), I'll stick around. I'll share some knowledge. I'll learn a few new tricks myself. And more importantly, I'll maintain my street cred.
What are YOU doing to maintain your credibility in your field?
On Saturday, the Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools was put on the defensive. The district is forced to make some unpleasant budget cuts; however, a disproporationate number of jobs cut came from elementary music and fine arts. (Didn't see a single athletic position take it in the jock strap, though.)
Sebring explained her position of the situation as follows (compliments of the Des Moines Register):
Superintendent Nancy Sebring expressed frustration with having to make the cuts. "Those courses are absolutely essential because they enhance learning," she said.
But, she added, the district also has a commitment to making sure students pass core subjects and meet federal requirements. This year, nine schools in the district were identified as persistently low-achieving schools.
Has Sebring perhaps overlooked the well known correlation that music and art CONTRIBUTE to higher scores at core subjects? Simple cause and effect.
It amazes me when those in the position of decision-making power fail to see the obvious connections, the proven relationship between inputs and outputs, when they are right under their noses. It happens in business all the time, so this one isn't surprising either. Managers make short-sighted decisions because the almighty dollar says so. There must be other creative solutions to allow their elementary students to continue in the arts and music so they WILL get higher scores in math, English, and science.
If you have 20 minutes, watch the following video. You'll see what I mean. If you have children in the Des Moines school district, perhaps you should attend tomorrow's school board meeting and let them know what you think.
(One note: it is not wholly up to schools to educate children in the fine arts. Those children whose parents are committed to the arts and/or can afford to supplement the school's shortfalls will do fine. The others? Hmmmm.)
Seems hard to believe that 10% of my active professional life has been spent blogging. I suppose it's cheaper than therapy. And my clients tend to behave better for fear they'll become the topic of a blog post.
Regardless, thank you all for sticking with me ever since I asked the question, Why Carpe Factum?
Thank you all for letting me ramble on shamelessly about three books.
It's been fun reading student journals this week. When it's just the student's thoughts on paper, they're able toe brutally honest about things. I try to create that atmosphere of safety with my students so they can be candid.
None of them liked the costume assignment ... at first. (Of course, after five years of teaching this course, no student likes the costume assignment until after it becomes reality.)
Through this assignment, they get a rite of passage. They're allowed to internalize their "creative self." For some, this is an emotional experience. They've lived for years, some for decades, convinced they were not creative. And when faced with a very public expression of their own creativity, they balk. They dismiss. They shun. And they label. It's a dumb idea. Making 35 professionals dress in costume. Who does this prof think he is?
I love making converts out of detractors.
Granted, I'm afforded a certain level of latitude. As the professor, I get to make the rules. When they first learn of the assignment, the students are compliant but not committed. Then magic occurs. At the risk of going too "new age" on you, they get to touch their own soul through the process of choosing a costume and presenting their rationale to their peers. They also get to hear 34 other stories. And they realize it's not so dumb after all.
What are the "dumb ideas" in your life waiting for you to embrace them? What are the goals you've dismissed? Where have you hidden your inner fire? It's still there. Not dumb. Not dismissed. Not hidden. Just waiting. Like an abandoned toy from childhood, it may be dusted off and played with yet again. Passion and dormancy are mutually exclusive. One eventually wins out.
I've met so many amazing people on my blogospheric journey of the past four years. Two of the smartest guys in the social media sandbox are Eric Brown and John Koetsier. Great senses of humor AND brains AND articulation make them both amazing individuals. I feel lucky enough just to be on their radar screen, but to have each of them blog about my latest book on the same day through sheer coincidence is JUST FLIPPIN' AWESOME.
Eric had given me a "heads up" that his review was coming, and he didn't disappoint:
But then John does his Olympic detox (yeah, he's been knee-deep in the Olympics the past two weeks up in his home in Vancouver) by choosing to write about my book. How utterly cool is that?
Systems thinking is not natural for most people. In today’s complex business processes, inputs and outputs are widely separated in space and time … often by continents and months, if not years. So inefficiency and worse, ineffectiveness are hard to spot and harder to fix....
Since systems aren’t things and can’t easily be visualized, it helps when SWAT makes the system come alive. Embedding the information in an engaging story is something that makes the teaching transparent and the learning effortless. Plus, the book is brief and to the point: perfect for busy people.
Thanks to both of you! You both gave my workweek the needed inputs to start on a high note!