Monday, August 20, 2012

We Are Ready

One of the biggest challenges to going on a trip is making sure you have everything – making sure you are ready. I had two experiences this summer that got me thinking a lot about readiness. The first was a family road trip for the ages and the other was an experience in physical endurance. Both of these experiences gave me time to reflect on our collective work here at MVCC.

My family and I drove to Florida this summer to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Since we were driving, we prepared a nine-day itinerary that took us through 13 states where we spent 52 hours in the car and traveled over 3,000 miles – it was a “Griswoldian adventure” to remember. Most of all, it was a lot of time on the open road (and I only had to stop the car once!). Our August Institute speaker, Steve Uzzell, graced us with an amazing presentation where he spoke about the spirit of the open road as the best place to solve problems and get a fresh perspective. Our wonderful summer road trip certainly provided me with a lot of time on the open road.

All that time with my family renewed my focus on what matters – both personally and professionally. As Steve Uzzell said, “the open road provides you with new experiences that lead you to the first step in the creative problem-solving process … that allows you to step away from your immediate world and gives you a visual focal point.” Personally, it reminded me of the importance of a solid work/life balance and that your family gives you that purpose, so we work to live and not the other way around. Professionally, the trip gave me a chance to reflect on the last five years at MVCC and the incredible pace we’ve collectively kept to keep up with pressing enrollment demands and all the work needed to examine what and how we do things.

A few weeks after the road trip, I ran the Warrior Dash with our oldest daughter. It wasn’t exactly a “dash” per se, as the race consists of running 1.5 miles nearly straight up Windham Mountain and then navigating 14 obstacles on the steep descent back down the mountain – obstacles like crouching through drainage tunnels; crawling under barbed wire twice (once in a mudpit); scaling two 20-foot walls; jumping over a ring of fire; and a few others that I’ll likely continue to mentally block. About half-way up the hill, as I worked to thwart what felt like a possible stroke, I started to wonder if I was as prepared for this race as I thought I was – was I really ready? As I took a look at the postage stamp-sized parking lot below and the amazing vista from the mountainside, I realized that the first leg of the race may have been a bit more intense than I thought it was going to be, but taking a moment to regain my sense of equilibrium created in me a renewed sense of readiness for what came next. 

These two great experiences this summer inspired my remarks at convocation last week. The punctuated equilibrium model I mentioned flashed in my mind at the top of Windham Mountain, and has particular resonance with where we are as a College. Tushman and Romanelli (1994) define it as, “organizations … (evolve) through relatively long periods of stability (equilibrium periods) in their basic patterns of activity that are punctuated by relatively short bursts of fundamental change (revolutionary periods) … (that) disrupt established activity patterns and install the basis for new equilibrium periods. I believe we have certainly worked through a major period of punctuated change at the College and are ready for an emerging period of equilibrium – a period where we embrace our new perspectives and work to fully implement all of the great ideas we have here.

The path in this next period may not be straight uphill, but it won’t be clear or easy, either. I closed my convocation remarks with three guides to keep with us along our path:
  • Embracing an abundance mindset, do more of what we do well.
  • Connect with students and help them find their way no matter the need.
  • Be patient, kind, and respectful to others in all matters.
If each of us can do these three things, we will affirm our sense of readiness and be better able to solve problems – no matter our role or responsibility.

As we start the new academic year, I have a great sense of our collective readiness to confront an ambiguous future. It is time to gather our focus – no new design teams or reorganizations this year – as our time for preparation is complete. We are ready. And keep in mind Steve Uzzell’s quoting of Louis Pasteur, “chance favors the prepared mind.”

If you have any comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.