leadership dot #2587: ratios revisited

One of the most powerful ways to impact the environment without inconveniencing people is to change the municipal regulations regarding parking lots. Currently, retailers must provide a set number of parking spaces, plus additional handicapped spaces, for each square foot of built space. As a result, parking lots for retail are huge and have an excessive capacity for the majority of the time.

This point was brought home during resurfacing of a local strip mall lot: literally, half of the parking area was closed off, yet there were still empty spaces at a peak time on the weekend. Why did that whole area of fertile Iowa farmland need to be paved over just to sit empty?

Parking lot regulations are formula-driven and that calculation has served builders well for many years. But as more people opt for online purchasing or on-site pickup instead of parking, it’s time to revisit the requirements for how much land must become asphalt, yet be destined to sit idle the majority of the time.

Standard parking lot regulations usually translate to about 10 parking spots for every 1000 feet of retail space. (A small Target averages 40,000 sq ft = 400 parking spots vs. a large Target at 130,000 sq ft = 1300 parking spots). Not only do the parking lots have a negative environmental impact to make them, as asphalt and concrete production is energy-intensive, but they continue to cause issues when the water that drains off of them picks up contaminants instead of allowing rain to directly permeate the earth.

What is the equivalent of a parking lot ratio in your organization – something that you have not reconsidered for years but maybe could use a recalculation to reflect more contemporary times? It’s worth a look to avoid ongoing investments in something that is just wasted because no one bothered to do an update.


leadership dot #2586: corps

As I watched a drum and bugle corps competition, I could barely follow all the moving parts. There were hundreds of members spread across the full field with flags flying in one direction, “guns” being thrown in another, horns swaying one way and the drums marching at their side, all while the front ensemble added in their own music and entertainment. It seemed that each component had its own separate act, yet it was clearly orchestrated as part of the whole.

In addition to the performance, all of the corps members contributed to the set-up and tear-down of the props, conductor stand, electrical cords, flags, etc. It, too, was a well-choreographed production where everyone knew their role and carried it out efficiently.

The program booklet highlighted that the delegation of duties occurred behind the scenes as well, thanking volunteers who “cook, sew, drive, teach, fix or construct instruments, work on props, serve on the board, wash cars, stir the Squencher, fix kids’ ailing limbs, build or clean stuff, take in stranded members stuck in the airport, help with recruiting, work on fundraising or find all of these great volunteers mentioned above.”

Organizations would be well-served to take a field trip to a drum and bugle corps competition and to apply lessons from there to their own organization. It should be the goal of all organizations to work with such efficiency, artistry and coordination – as a unit, but ultimately as a whole.


leadership dot #2584: sensitive

It’s one thing to have the resources that your clientele needs but another thing to be proactive in making the resources easily accessible. The librarians in Brookline, MA understood that some customers may feel awkward asking for books on sensitive subjects so they compiled a reference list and placed it in library bathrooms.

Topics included birth control, depression, domestic violence, eating disorders, grieving, pregnancy and suicide and were listed on a flyer that read: “We are here to help, but we know some things are hard to ask about. We’ve created these signs to help you navigate whatever you’re going through.” This thoughtful tool may be just what is needed to get a person the help that they need.

Think about what sensitive subjects exist in your organization – either for your customers or employees – and then anticipate how you could approach them in a compassionate and private manner. Aim to make the hard stuff as easy to address as you can.

Thanks to Father Nathan Monk for the post.

leadership dot #2583: library

Merriam-Webster needs to update its definition of “library.” Currently, a library is defined as “ a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale” — but that definition is so yesterday.

Today’s library is the Library of Things.

Libraries are among the best institutions at adapting to changing needs. They have reinvented themselves to focus on “lending” rather than maintain a narrow focus of what that involves. Libraries went from just having books to adding periodicals. Next came audiobooks (cassettes, then CDs, then streaming), then movies (videos, then DVDs, then BluRay). Now libraries fuel the sharing economy by offering collections of games, puzzles, specialty baking pans, tools and equipment. One library converted its obsolete card catalog into a Seed Library – filling the drawers with envelopes of seeds for customers to take and return when their grown plant creates new ones.

Libraries were among the first to furnish Maker Spaces as a venue to share audiovisual equipment, jewelry-making tools, sewing machines, 3-D printers, cameras, button machines, green screens and pottery wheels. One library near Lake Michigan checks out metal detectors on the beach and others loan clients reading glasses, computers, and Kindles.

The library has become what Starbucks defined as the Third Place – somewhere to meet and gather besides home or work. They provide access to the internet, coffee shops and children’s areas. In Boston, the library revamped its map room into a café with a tea lounge, complete with specialty drinks named after literary greats.

Today’s library embraces the key concept from Built to Last*: preserve the core and stimulate progress. They have remained true to the mission of offering free lending while embracing a modern interpretation of what articles they lend. They are good for the budget, for the environment, for the mind and for community connectedness.

How can you model the flexibility of today’s library and embrace the essence of your mission in a decidedly contemporary way?

*Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, 2004

leadership dot #2582: set limits

The next time you’re driving down the highway, pay close attention to the row of power poles that line the road. Chances are that you will see a barrier midway up the pole — something that you probably never noticed before but once you see it, you’ll be attuned to them everywhere.

These metal or plastic rings are animal guards, designed to keep squirrels, cats and raccoons from climbing up the pole and causing damage to the electrical wires. Animals trigger over 10% of the power outages across the nation (who knew!?) and so animal mitigation is serious business in the utility industry.

Barriers must be far enough off the ground to keep the animals from jumping over them and long enough so the animals are unable to gain traction when they reach the deterrent, but just wrapping the pole is a simple yet effective way to keep the wires atop it safe.

If only organizations provided such clarity as to where the limits are!

Think of the kind of pole wrap you should deploy in your organization – a self-policing tool that establishes boundaries for employees. By clearly delineating where the parameters are, it allows employees autonomy in other areas and frees the supervisor from continual monitoring. Clarity also protects the employee from getting “zapped” through ignorance.

Squirrel barriers are important components of utility poles — a minor investment that can reduce actions with more serious consequences. Organizations would be well served to model this practice.

Thanks, Curt!

leadership dot #2580: culture of evidence

For a change effort to truly last, the overall culture must change as well. Spurlock and Johnston have created a wonderful matrix to help organizations assess to what extent their culture is truly changing. The Measuring a Culture of Evidence matrix provides descriptors of what to observe in five areas: intentionality, perspective, critical linkages, initiatives & directions and planning processes. Based on those behaviors, individuals can assess where the organization falls:

  • A Culture of Good Intentions (people have a sense that they are doing good things)
  • A Culture of Justification (people can describe what they are doing)
  • A Culture of Strategy (people can describe what they are accomplishing and how it relates to mission and goals)
  • A Culture of Evidence (people can describe why they are doing things and what they are accomplishing through them)

Too often people declare success because they feel like they are doing “good things” but without understanding and a strategic path, there is little opportunity to measure the success or to replicate it. The “good things” may provide short-term progress but will fail to achieve transformation or permanent change.

It’s much easier, and initially more fun, to create some changes and show them off. But only with planning, measurements, systemwide operational changes and continuous evaluation will significant differences occur. Utilize the Measuring a Culture of Evidence rubric to take a hard look at where your organization falls in its change efforts and take steps to change your internal functions before you attempt to change your output.

Sources:  Tweet by Matthew D. Pistilli @mdpistilli 6/15/19 — Spurlock, R. S. & Johnston, A. J. (2012) Measuring a Culture of Evidence. In M. Culp & G. Dungy (Eds.), Building a Culture of Evidence (p. 65). Washington, DC: NASPA.

leadership dot #2579: too complex

When we went to watch a movie in our vacation rental, everyone was glad that we had an electrical engineer in the family to navigate the complex array of remotes required for the movie to play. The owner clearly had anticipated our confusion – as she was kind enough to leave instructions as to the purpose of the six different remotes – but did it need to be that challenging?

There was enough media equipment in the home to accommodate videos, DVDs and streaming. On one hand, it provided a larger array of entertainment options, but on the other hand, it necessitated a multitude of remotes, moving of cable wires and connectors and about as long to queue up the movie as it took to watch it.

Sometimes we need to pull the plug – literally – on the old way. Declare a moment where it’s time to make the switch – phasing out the old and only supporting the new. The energy and complexity required to maintain multiple systems – in the vacation home entertainment console and more importantly, in your organization, is counterproductive.