In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The cat answers, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
A sense of direction is as critical for companies today as it was for young Alice traveling through a strange fictional world. During periods of rapid change, a bold direction helps an organization adapt. Direction is one of nine elements that comprise any organization’s structural ability to change, research my colleague Kevin Murphy and I published in this summer’s Harvard Business Review cover article “How Good Is Your Company at Change?”
It’s hard for people to feel confident about change when they’re unsure which direction to head. But how can leaders provide direction in today’s environment of chronic uncertainty, with its ever-increasing pace of change?
The conventional process for providing such strategic direction—the relatively rigid annual and three-year planning cycle—is on its way to the history books. The business world faces rapidly changing customer behavior, fast-moving technology trends, and increasingly aggressive competitive jostling, and this old model simply can’t keep up. If there was any doubt about that, the pandemic has brought into clear focus just how mismatched fixed-cycle planning is to today’s dynamic environment. “Fixed-cycle is out, and dynamic, adaptive, and connective strategy is (finally) in,” as my colleagues Herman Spruit and James Dixon write in their article “How to Breathe New Life into Strategy.”
There are important implications for developing and communicating clear strategic direction. I see many leaders today reimagining how their executive committee spends its time. They are drawing a clear distinction between their business delivery agenda, with its focus on executing business operations on time and on budget, and their development agenda, which is about strategic choices and building new business.
In their book Doing Agile Right, my colleagues Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, and Steve Berez describe how Agile leadership teams evolve from spending 60% of their day on operations, 10% on strategy, and 30% on people to just 25% on operations, 40% on strategy, and 35% on people. By making more room to discuss often complex and ambiguous issues related to strategy and people, these executives strengthen their organization’s direction and make it possible to flexibly adjust as new information arrives.
The leadership team of one multibillion-dollar enterprise has split its gatherings into delivery and development-oriented meetings. In delivery meetings, team members solve problems, and managers cultivate constructive dialogues they hope will accelerate results. Some are short business reviews, but many dive deeper to explore issues and correct course as needed, transforming into coaching and experience-sharing sessions that develop both talent and key capabilities.
The development sessions, by contrast, are often held in an offsite location and always include a guest speaker from outside the team. This person provides inspiration and stimulates new thinking and problem solving with unexpected and creative approaches. These gatherings are light on PowerPoint slide presentations and heavy on discussion. Executives check day-to-day operating concerns at the door and instead spend their time reflecting on what they might be missing, what competitors are doing, what customers are telling them, and where their industry is headed. These are not just lofty conceptual discussions. This group probes key issues that might be suited to experimentation, such as a new prototype, for example. Exploring and working creatively to find answers together, executives strengthen their shared fabric of trust, alignment, and collaboration.
We all have a fundamental human desire for clarity of purpose and direction. That’s why seeing an entire map and being able to plot out a journey each step of the way brings comfort, confidence, and security. The business counterpart to that carefully plotted itinerary on the map is the fixed-cycle three-year strategy. But our environment today is so dynamic that this just isn’t realistic anymore. The likelihood that you’ll need to adjust that plan along the way is near certain.
The metaphor that works for me is that of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Years ago, when we lived in the Bay Area of California, I was awestruck looking at the fog that would frequently creep in from the Pacific Ocean to crawl over the bridge like a soft, white blanket. You couldn’t quite see from one side to the other. Crossing, you knew your destination but might only be able to see a few steps ahead.
Like drivers crossing the Golden Gate on a foggy morning, today’s executives probably cannot see the exact route of the journey ahead. Accepting that and setting up systems that allow for frequent reflection and redirection are what make navigation—and success—possible.
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Ladysmith Arts Council hopes a provincial grant can help get the art gallery back into its old venue – Ladysmith Chronicle – Ladysmith Chronicle
The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District has an opportunity to apply for a BC Arts Council grant, which could help the Waterfront Art Gallery return to its old venue at the Ladysmith Machine Shop. It requested a letter of support from the Town of Ladysmith, which was discussed at council’s Nov. 30 special meeting.
The grant could provide up to $250,000 for renovations of the old building. There is $4 million in the provincial fund to be distributed to arts organizations and the deadline to apply is Jan. 14. After discussing the letter, town council referred the issue back to staff to gather more information on the proposed project and grant application.
“We are disappointed of course because we feel uncertain about our future,” said Kathy Holmes, president of the arts council. “At this point, the arts council is going to be looking at all sort of avenues to find a home — wherever that is, permanently or temporarily.”
The grant application requires a detailed outline of the proposed project, with milestones and a timeline and it is required to have a completion date before the end of 2024.
Mayor Stone said the town would likely not hear back about the grant application within a year and it would take another year or two for design and construction work. “I am fully supportive of the concept of this — I just don’t see in my most optimistic viewpoint that we could find it as a reality between now and the end of 2024,” he said.
Coun. Duck Paterson said the town does not yet know when tenants will be able to return to the Machine Shop or where the funds to renovate it will come from — the grant, if successful, would only provide a portion. He questioned whether the town has the staff time and resources to help the arts council complete the application.
“We definitely have the staff to look after some of this. We do have a lot of this information we have compiled over the years through the Machine Shop project,” said Chris Barfoot, director of parks, recreation and culture. He added the town has cost estimates, but they are from 2018–19 and would have to be updated.
In order to find ways to plan a phased approach for the project, he said staff would have to go back and work with consultants. “We know that there is a price to complete the entire project. It would be a matter of how do we achieve a phased approach and what type of services and utilities need to be addressed to do that.”
Coun. Marsh Stevens supported sending the item back to staff to get more details to consider at the next council meeting. “I love that they are taking initiative as a community group to do this but I want them to be successful,” he said.
Paterson suggested the town give a letter of support for a separate part of the grant, which could provide $25,000 to assist with planning and consultation. “I know that’s not what they want, but I think it would be easier for us to accept,” he said.
The arts council will provide an annual presentation to council on Dec. 7 to update the town on its operations.
Rare First Nations Artwork Uncovered at Yukon Friendship Centre – CBC.ca
Staff at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre were shocked to find 183 art pieces in their basement recently, many of them created by well-known artists.
“This recent discovery during this year of significant hardship has been a very welcome surprise,” said Bill Griffis, the centre’s executive director, in a news release.
The art was originally donated to the non-profit organization in Whitehorse back in 1997, but forgotten over the years as staff left.
Among the pieces found, 28 belonged to the well-known contemporary artist Carl Beam. The other 155 were created by Stephen Snake and other Indigenous artists.
Griffis said the next step is to determine the value of each piece.
“Each one [of Beam’s art pieces] has an appraisal certificate with them,” said Griffis. “Part of the process is to figure out what the value is now because we have a collection [and] there may be some historical value to it.”
Out of the other 155, about a third of them also had appraisals from the late 90s.
Significant impact on Canadian art sector
As one of Canada’s most ground-breaking Indigenous artists, the art from Beam is of particular interest.
He was from M’Chigeeng First Nation, located on Manitoulin Island, Ont. He was born in 1943 and passed away in 2005.
Beam had a significant impact on the Canadian art sector. His work, which ranged from Plexiglass to canva and other media, provoked conversations about the Indigenous experience of injustice in Canada.
Beam’s cousin, Joe Migwans, is a long-time Yukon resident and cultural mentor.
“He was my cousin by blood, but he’s more like my uncle because in our way, when we have a cousin like that, that age, he’s more like my uncle. I always listen to what he said to me because he’s my elder,” explained Migwans.
He said Beam’s work has a powerful message and is even more relevant today.
“He’s basically preserving those kind of snippets in this time and telling, and it kind of like how he perceives the world to be and what his take is on it. And then in the future, people will see kind of what was going on here from from his perspective,” he says.
Towards the end of his life, Beam started to talk more about what life could be or what life is all about, said Migwans.
“What it’s about is overcoming and then achieving something in your life and not having to go through what you did in the past. So your life can move forward. I mean, that’s the vision, right? And a lot of us back home that knew him and worked with him, we always believed that he was more well ahead of his time,” he said.
Migwans said art is used to tell a story and capture a moment in time. He added that most of Beam’s work came from his anger from residential schools and injustices towards Indigenous people.
“Some of the things he would like to really do was to take any stereotype around First Nations people. One of the things was saying our people were dirty Indians. Except there never was. We never were like that,” said Migwans.
5:06Art by Carl Beams and Stephen Snake discovered at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse
Beam was the first Indigenous contemporary artist featured at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
“He did it on his own in his own way. Not as a First Nations artist, as the contemporary artist, which means he’s just like anybody else. He’s not under the guise of First Nations or the idea that he’s entitled to something because he’s First Nation.
“He didn’t have to use that as something to get him forward,” said Migwans.
Out of nearly 200 pieces, some will be sold to the public and some to private galleries across Canada.
The remaining pieces will be part of a silent auction on the Friendship Centre’s website from Dec. 4 to the 14th.
The auction is part of a fundraiser between the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre and Sundog Veggies Training Farm.
Heather Finton, owner of Sundong Veggies, said the organization is grateful they can use the found art to raise some money.
“Not only is this artwork like amazing and so timely but the way that some of these gifts are going to be available to the community to support the work Skookum does is … it’s just a privilege to be part of these amazing story,” she said.
The two organizations have been collaborating since 2020 for the community lunch program which feeds several families in Whitehorse. They share a goal of building food security in the Yukon and creating opportunities to develop land-based skills.
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