Its a Process

Its a Process

I stepped into the warm, cozy conference room on a cold February day and looked back over my shoulder at the beautifully groomed golf course – in spite of the grey gloomy sky and brown dormant turf, it was stunning.

My department took over the golf course landscaping and maintenance several years ago. We were already a bare bones operation, working with a barely adequate budget and minimal staff only to have one more property to add to the strain. It took a while to adapt to the change – it was a process – a series of steps – connected – leading toward an end result. It seemed impossible at the time – I remember wondering if the team could sustain and maintain the growth momentum we had just acquired.

Then, I thought about the laws of nature that constantly surprise us all the time – nature, including human nature, is incredibly resilient. When you move a big tree, you have to do it in baby steps. Take the 250 year old burr oak tree on the University of Michigan campus. This massive 65-foot tall tree had to be moved – to make way for change. That process took months – starting in July and ending in October. It took months with over 250 individuals carefully tending to the step-by-step process that would move this massive oak less than a football field away to its new home – its new “normal”.

And, so, we began our process of change. Step by step we discussed openly the challenges, the needed adaptations to man-hours, duties, budgets and schedules. Each step of the way we would talk it through, putting everything out on the table for discussion. I heard them share critical team characteristics of hard work, pride in ownership, motivation, and leading by example, communication, attitude and others I can’t totally recall. And in the process, we devised new ways of doing the things we had been doing, to make room for the new things to be done. We pulled from things we read and recorded our ideas on endless flip-charts that contained our plans for adaptation. We found a process that worked as we moved step by step to our new “normal.”

And today, walking across the golf course and entering that conference room, it was what was inside that made me most proud. I saw a group of people comfortable in their commitment to excellence and I was reminded once again of where we started – where we are – where we are going. It has been, and is, an ongoing process of change, adaptation, growth and then change, adaptation, growth. I believe it is the responsibility of the leader at each level to set the tone, find the process, cultivate it and grow it.

Attend to the process – always.

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