It’s amazing how one does a lot of stuff while waiting for the order to evacuate — which never happened, for our community — yet seemingly accomplishing so little. Some fidgeted, some did housework; a few continued their yardwork, and others whacked away at the scruffy underbrush around the house. Concentration was definitely a scarce commodity. So I will relate only a couple of ideas I noticed during this trying week.
Watching the firefighters battling the menace and hearing what they had to go through simply moved me. It wasn’t just putting out the fire, but also making strategic decisions on where to focus and where to draw the lines. Cutting down trees, clearing brush, pre-burning (paradoxical and risky) to hold the fire lines away from dwellings and important structures. Firefighters came from neighboring districts, and from other states, and they worked toward one goal, relentlessly.
In the meantime, civilian organizations still observe their bureaucratic entanglements. Imagine if the firefighters have to collect even half a dozen signatures before they can move forward?! I am reminded of my first published article on innovation, in particular, teamwork on innovation. In that, I argue that there are two parallel aspects of teamwork: one aspect is about the actual work on the product, and the other is about work on building and maintaining the team. Pursuing product breakthroughs is difficult enough; without a coherent team, it’d be next to impossible. But when to work on the team? Working on aspects such as, understanding each other, grasping the team dynamics, how best to work with each other, when to do what and by whom… These seemingly mundane issues often get neglected, but on peril of the success of the ultimate product, because that which one wants to sweep away tends to trip one up, especially during critical moments. The best time to do the teaming work is when things are calm, so that when the next crisis – you can always count on it – occurs, the team is in a better position to face it. I call this “anchoring.” It’s akin to working on your boat while it’s at anchor, so that when you set sail, the maintenance work will pay off.
Firefighters spend the majority of their down time preparing, training, retraining, checking and maintaining equipment so that when they are called, they are ready.
However, while most of us honor and admire the firefighters’ work, there are others who help create fires, sometimes intentionally.
In an area where precipitation has been practically absent for more half of a year, it’s like sitting on a tinderbox. But officials are not allowed to place an outright ban on fireworks and the sales of them. Seriously? What happened to our common sense? You only need two ingredients to set a fire which can rage in such a dry condition: greed and stupidity. Yes, liberty is a big deal in this country, but so is civil behavior for the common good. I hear people talk about how they cannot deprive their children the tradition of July 4th fireworks! How about teaching children to be concerned citizens? The merchants argue that it’s up to the public whether they want to purchase. This is what I call “atomistic” or mechanic thinking; basically, it’s the “not my job/problem” syndrome. It’s antithetical to community and organization. And then there are those who always underestimate risks when they want something badly; they claim that if you use caution, do it in open land, have plenty of water standing by (when we are in serious draught?) etc., it’d be alright. Equally weak is the argument that July 4th and fireworks are intertwined national symbols…what’s the percentage of these fireworks that is made in US? This may be a social/political (why political is beyond me!) issue, but the underlying attitudes and thinking are present everywhere in organizations all over.
Enjoy your July 4th. Be safe, be creative, and be contributory. Till next time,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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