It’s as I’m running at a reasonable clip along a street that’s pretty much deserted — most of the houses that once made up this neighborhood were wiped away by the flood of 2008 or, later, by the city of Cedar Rapids — that I detect a man’s voice.
He’s at least a block away, and he’s yelling something like, “Get back here!”
Then I hear the dog barking.
No, that’s two dogs I hear. They’re angry and, more important, they’re getting closer.
I speak dog and usually can negotiate territorial disputes. But these two sound as if their minds are pretty well made up.
Making some hasty calculations concerning distance versus velocity, I quickly make a sharp U-turn and bolt back to where I’d parked my car.
The barking is getting louder — that is, closer. But I manage to reach my car and fling myself inside before the hounds of the Baskervilles catch up.
That’s the good news/bad news about running. Things happen.
As I catch my breath and start the ignition, this notion of trying to prepare for the unexpected reminds me of Errol Morris’s “The Fog of War,” which I’d just seen a few days before. In that 2003 documentary, Robert S. McNamara tries to defend the escalation of the Vietnam War during his tenure as U.S. Defense Secretary.
Yes, things got out of hand, he explains, and often no one really knew what the hell was going on over there. Chalk up the confusion and the catastrophic errors in judgment to the “fog” of war, McNamara contends.
Things happen in running. And, as we know, things happen in management.
Every management book and webinar since the 1990s has preached that, no matter how diligently you plot a course from A to B, change is now the norm.
So here’s a question: If our environment — and subsequently our procedures, objectives and the very nature of our line of business — is in a constant state of change, what’s the point of learning new tricks? It’s all going to be different — again — tomorrow, right?
As managers, it’s our job to separate “change” from “chaos.” We need to achieve a rhythm across the operation of our business so when change does come snapping at our heels, the company can keep going.
I used to run every day. My rule was I’d venture out as long as the temperature was in the two-digit range — above 9 degrees Fahrenheit but below 99.
But more than a couple moves across various states curtailed that routine for longer than I’d care to admit. These days I’ve been trying to regain that rhythm, that stride from when it felt as if I could run forever.
A friend used to say gravity has different effects on people: some folk it pulls down, others it pushes up. And he believed you decided which it did.
In a perfect world — yes, I know, that’s not where any of us live or work — we need to maintain a rhythm for our business so we can keep advancing, one foot in front of the other.
You never know when you’re going to hear barking from not far enough away.
Hey, what was that …?