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An Imperfect Conflagration

September 14, 2013

Today’s title is that of a story I read a long time ago by Ambrose Bierce. He was called bitter Bierce for the dark writing he produced. The particular story is very short and has a twisted moral tone not unlike much of his writing, however I do very much enjoy the moral and the implications in which the protagonist finds himself.

I thought of this story while hiking up Mt. Cuyamaca in eastern San Diego county. I hiked with Richard for the first time in at least a year thanks to his knee recovering from a prior injury. We had a great walk up the hill and it was nice to continue my mountain training even if I did not bring my bricks or even my Ruck. It is also always great to have a such great hiking partner to chat with and since we have known one another for 20 years we had lots to chat about.

The reason that Cuyamaca reminded me of the story is that the last time we hiked it was immediately after a forest fire in San Diego. Below are some picture comparisons that shows the immediate carnage followed by examples of way that nature heals from a couple weeks ago. This got me to thinking about the way that sometimes challenges can allow for growth. All of the things that cause us to fall down are opportunities to learn but sometimes the things that are the most devastating are actually a chance to start again and even become stronger. The small trees beginning to emerge on Cuyamaca will become just like those that are now just vestiges of their former selves.
Oct 2009




Sept 2013




After the hike was I was reading some management theory articles that reminded me of the complexity of office politics and the challenges to growth or re growth of an organization. One of the most important things I ever learned about business is that if you always carry yourself in a formal professional manner you will greatly reduce the amount of pain you suffer by not getting along as well as you can with your peers. We spend so much time together at the office that we undoubtedly become friends, lovers, enemies, and estranged colleagues but I will never understand why I see so many people who never learn to have professional disagreements with one another and let them be just that, a differing of ideas. Too often we see rumors or disagreements turn into enmity between people who have to get along in order to be successful as a team and as a organization.

Silos in organizations occur for these very reasons. Management sets goals for success and even if considered carefully they can drive a leader to make decisions that bring great success to their unit only at the expense of their peer managing another team. Having high thresholds and goals can also bring groups together but the more complex the situation the harder it is to measure how a goal impacts diverse needs across a platform rather than just in the unit whose success is tied to that particular goal. Thinking about how to over come silos is something that has been considered often and that many business leaders struggle with so my two cents are just adding to droves of other ideas but I think they may be worth saying. Over coming management challenges is not unlike nature healing, sometimes a chance to start over is better than trying to change course.

Driving change and a culture of accountability first starts with bringing people together and makes sure they treat each other with respect and dignity. Forcing strong personalities to work through difficult ideas or process without coming to blows is hard but if those people can be encouraged to work together to come to the best solution, the benefit to the institution as a whole should be abundantly clear. Teaching professionalism and accountability will go a long way towards making difficult interactions easier. There are far less rumors and whispers among a group of people who trust one another and who know that they will stand behind and support one another. I guess all these musings boil down to foundations. Whether your building a business, a charity, or a social club having people who interact well and encouraging them to play well together can go a long way toward avoiding an imperfect conflagration.

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