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Keep Them Wagons Rollin’

Terry Camsey

by Captain Terry Camsey – 

“Removing faults in a stagecoach may produce a perfect stagecoach, but is most unlikely to produce the first motor car.”

(Edward De Bono: Future Positive, Penguin Books)

Spending a few years in the United Kingdom helping the territory to develop a vision for the future was very interesting, to say the least. Firstly, we were not the same people who had left England in 1972. For one thing, we had not been officers there, and for another, our world view changed dramatically during spent time in both USA Eastern and Western Territories over nearly a quarter of a century.

So…we were not the same people But, then, neither was it the same country that we left. Many changes, not least a dramatic difference in the ethnic tapestry of the country, have occurred. In 1972, first generation immigrants were arriving and, even if English-speaking, had distinct accents giving clues to their country of origin. Now they are into their second and third generations…people born in the UK and citizens by birth but, outwardly, looking much the same as the first generation of immigrants. The strangest thing to us was the fact that, regardless of color or race, those “new generation Brits” speak with the same regional accents of their home town or city as citizens who can trace their ancestry as Britishers for many centuries. You could close your eyes and listen and have no idea of the country of origin of their ancestors.

Perhaps, however, the most dramatic thing was to see how much older people looked whom we once knew well. Certainly they looked older than we felt, since we felt the same age as when we had last spent time with them. Little did we realize that we looked as ancient to them as they did to us! The point being that, when you grow old together, you hardly notice the aging process…after all, it takes a long time for wrinkles to develop…and hairs to drop out…or turn gray. But, stay away from someone for a few years and you immediately notice the difference.

It is not surprising, therefore, for people to be unaware of subtle changes taking place around them in the environment, especially if much of their social time is spent within a cloistered culture, jealously guarded from their public (working) lives. And if they, in such a cloistered context, fail to see the changes in their own bodies while–at the same time–keeping the external world at a distance, little wonder that when the word “change” is mentioned their initial reaction is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Now, I have to say that I do not personally subscribe to that attitude for a couple of reasons. The first is that unless we, from time to time, examine objectively what we do (instead of subjectively with the bias of our own desires) we may never discover whether there is an even better way of doing things.

(We sing, “To be the best that I can be…” but do we really mean that, or are we thinking “To be the best that I am comfortable being…)!

There is an additional benefit of examining what we do and why, in that if we–in so doing–only reaffirm why we do something a certain way, then it prevents our confusing means with ends. It may also confirm that there is, currently, no better way. Peter Drucker suggested than an organization should review and put on trial all its processes and programs at least once every three years.

We find ourselves at another re-envisioning (revisioning?) point in our history–a point where we shall, doubtless, be examining things that some will feel “ain’t broke”! In this context, the quotation that begins this column holds a tremendous challenge. It is suggesting, in effect, that solving problems merely leads to restoration of the status quo.

The question is whether we will best accomplish our mission and vision as a “stagecoach” (albeit a perfect one) or whether it’s time to design a “motor car.” Both are a means of getting from here to there on land…and stagecoaches are so romantic, aren’t they?

I can’t help wondering, though, how people who used to get around on foot felt when someone with no sense of history or tradition designed a stagecoach! (I add that thought merely as a footnote)!

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