Speed vs. Utility

We can talk about how fast we can go and highlight impressive numbers. However, our speed might make our intended impact less. How might we better understand the needs of those we aspire to serve so we can calibrate our effort? A regional passenger train that stops for just three seconds at appointed stations is useless to any potential riders not prepared to board instantaneously. An arts organization that says it serves 1,000 students because it flashed a single image on a screen without context for five seconds during a school district-wide assembly is not doing the work that matters. Finding our cadence is essential, which is why detachable ski lifts have become so successful. We can load and unload at a slow pace. The journey between the bottom and top stations travels at a higher rate of speed, where the reduction in total ride time is more significant.

The Risk of Unquestioned Utility

Measuring cups are essential resources for cooks, mixologists, and scientist. They are cornerstones of a kitchen, bar, and lab. Remarkable functionality and easy to use. Except when they are not.

Measuring cups have a lifespan. The uniform scale erodes from sight, they break, or get lost. Suddenly we are confronted with the reality that we must perform a skill that once was automatic.

The same is true with the individuals on our team. The highly reliable and omnipresent volunteer that filled a key position moves away. The Board Chair who served sensationally for years announces it is time for succession. A sustaining donor develops a new passion and shifts their considerable contributions towards a different enterprise.

We take for granted the utility of the reliable. How might it benefit our efforts if we think aloud, ‘I wonder what would happen if….?’ Perhaps the succession plan is obvious and the next individual is ready to ride. Or, we see challenging terrain ahead that we must navigate before reaching stability again. Celebrate the utility of the marvelously positioned individual but remember their tenure is not without limits. Be ready to adapt and adopt when needed.