I recently drove along the rim road of the Grand Canyon as part of a road trip. Being there, surrounded by nature, aware of the effort to maintain it, and reflecting on life and journeys, led me to reflect on the importance of appreciation and preserving what is great. Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and this is my way of sharing that appreciation.
The National Park system “preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” (source) I imagine that a significant part of their work in understanding how to “preserve unimpaired” something involves reflecting on their values and deeply considering what is crucial to convey those values and the underlying intent of those values to guests today, while ensuring that those aspects are sustainable and available indefinitely into the future.
Unfortunately, I do not know that we attend to these matters as clearly in our organizational transformations as we should. We spend significant effort focusing on what is broken, what could be better, and what needs to change. After all, we think of ourselves as leading transformations and driving change programs. Rarely do I see transformation teams slowing down to appreciate and knowledge the things that make the company great today.
My colleague, Christine Hudson, is phenomenal at taking this time for the organizations she works with. Her example as she helps leaders identify and respect the success that is brought them to this point is something that frequently becomes infectious for leadership teams. The habits this creates in understanding as a team what makes your organization amazing, and more importantly, what needs to be preserved and retained as you navigate change, are critical success factors for successful change. Rarely does a company want to throw away the things that have made it great in the past, but in our rush to become better we often put those things at risk.
Enjoy your time with your families (on Zoom!) around the country this Thanksgiving and share stories about lives and appreciation and love for each other. And then, take a moment and reflect on what you appreciate and what you love about the places you work, and challenge yourself to make those explicit in your transformations. Ask yourself, “What values and behaviors must we preserve, such that we would consider this transformation a failure if we were to lose them along the way?” and feed that back into your leadership teams.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!