Friday, March 13, 2015

why history matters

Yesterday in what is called our University Council, we took the time to rehearse a short history of our institution.  We did this for several reasons:
  •         We are embarking on developing a strategic plan that will shape the next 3-5 years (the next part of our history)
  •        As a part of the strategic planning process, we had our employees take the Organizational Cultural Inventory (and history helps tell the story of the current culture)
  •        Out of the 18 people in the room, approximately 1/3 have been a part of the institution for more than 10 years; 1/3 for 3-10 years; and 1/3 less than three years (thus many of us only know a part of recent history)
Knowing from whence one has come is important as the next part of one’s history is going to be written (this is true for organizations and individuals).  The past shapes one’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors – whether we want it to our not.  Since much of people’s actions are in RE-action to what has happened previously, taking time to think about the past and examine how it has shaped us up to this point is important before moving ahead.

As I contemplated our time rehearsing Concordia’s history, several thoughts crossed my mind:
  •   Making decisions in a vacuum, without understanding the history, can have paradoxical results: 1) you can make decisions which are harmful to the institution without filtering them through your past; and 2) there is a chance that you might not make a good decision because you filter it through your past
  •        While the past can dictate how we think and behave, we CAN change and realize that a new place and time is different…and we need to think and behave differently as well
  •         The past is powerful, and affects an organization’s culture in a strong way.  Saying we are going to change is never enough – consistent behavior over time will begin to dim the results of past behavior…but it takes time (and probably more than we think)
  •         It is really hard to change one’s picture of the past – we only know what we know.  One of the roles of a leader is to provide replacement pictures for the organization, pictures that can help people write a new story of what the organization CAN be, not just what it has been.
  •    Honoring those who have gone before us is an important part of creating a culture that says “people are important.”  Whether living or dead, those who have helped shape our history should be remembered for what they did to get the organization to where it is today (a corollary might be to not let our founders dictate what we do today…getting stuck on the person can dilute the vision)
 Finally, a quote recently came across my desk that reminded me of the importance of what we do on a daily basis – and how our current story is the history of tomorrow.  In Mark Beto’s Daily Motivator, he quoted Juliet Gordon Low as saying that “the work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”  That’s a responsibility that is on all of us, whether we are writing the history of our organization, our families, or of our community and nation.  It is my prayer that all of us will live out that responsibility in a way that gives glory to God and serves our neighbor.

No comments: