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Tradition with a future

Progressive Forage editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 29 January 2016

Most of us like to think of ourselves as agents of change, right? Isn’t that the “right” answer, the way we want people to see us?

We like to think we move with the times – not with every whim and fad, certainly, but we like to think when reasonable and prudent, we move forward, as long as we’ve given the idea due diligence and believe it will be beneficial. Well, maybe we’re just lying to ourselves.

We all claim to want progress; at different rates, maybe, but we all profess to want it. I reluctantly retired my flip phone and bought a smartphone about a year-and-a-half ago (high-five or perhaps “you go, girl” would be appropriate here).

I didn’t want to, really. I felt my cellphone was for private conversations with family, and I wanted to keep it private, hidden from the world and simple. But it was difficult to keep up with my career when I was traveling so, valuing my job, I bit the bullet and upgraded.

Best change I ever made. I don’t know why I waited so long. I have far more interactive and valuable communication with my family now than I ever did before, thanks to texting, quick emails (when not sitting at a computer), Instagram and FaceTime. Say what you want about the downfalls of the electronic age, but there are definite advantages.

Change is hard. Even among those who create change, promote it, campaign for it and have a vision for it, it’s hard. Patterns and habits have to be broken and reformed, like an arm bone that grew crooked and has to be broken and reset. Down the road it won’t hurt, but changing it will hurt like a son-of-a-gun. And there’s always that tendency to avoid pain and live with the crooked arm.

Other times we’re not really creating change (active mode) as much as we’re being changed (acted upon). Change happens in either case, but in the active and creative mode, we’re instigating change rather than being forced into it. Control makes all the difference.

Take retirement, for instance. Someone might run a successful billion-dollar operation but upon retirement, when someone asks what he’s going to do, he replies, “I have no idea.” That’s because he’s lost the creative mode of change and has slipped into the inactive mode, where change happens to him.

I’ll address just one more caveat of change worth considering here: preservation. Change and preservation might seem to be at odds with one another, but it’s seldom productive to tear something down completely and start over from scratch.

It would have been easy for Frances Hesselbein to start from scratch. Fortune magazine called Hesselbein “the best non-profit manager in America” when she became CEO of the Girl Scouts of America in 1976.

The organization had an extreme dependence upon volunteers (120 volunteers per every paid staff member), had declining membership and an outdated image that no longer appealed to young girls.

Despite the “broken” parts of the organization, Hesselbein knew the value of preserving the successful parts – like the annual cookie drive and the moral compass the organization provided for young women. She focused on “tradition with a future.” What a wonderful turn of phrase. What a worthy goal. Make a note of that in your smartphone to reflect upon further.

The point is: Change is healthy and absolutely necessary – and so is preservation of all that is productive and good. Are you honest enough with yourself and your operation to know the difference?  FG

Lynn Jaynes
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