Every year new words are added to our lexicon- either formally added to the dictionary or adapted as part of our slang. I am searching for the word that describes the state we are currently in. Something that combines our new flexibility requirements given the corona virus. The adaptability demanded in the light of our social justice uprising. The treadmill reality of 22 weeks of working from home. So in the spirt of Frindle (a children’s book by Andrew Clements where they invent the word Frindle) I introduce to you the concept Flexadaptmilling with its good, its challenges, and its lessons.
Flexibility: Bend and break. There have been some pretty amazing changes to our workplaces that without the corona virus wouldn’t have happened- or at least wouldn’t have happened at this pace. Suddenly every job can work from home. No one needs a flexible job arrangement to allow them to pick up kids, bring meals to parents, or to create a personal swing shift working schedule. I have had 3x the number of homemade dinners with my family than we’d have in normal times. Bending our assumptions has been healthy for our culture. But it also has it’s challenges. Zoom is a great tool. But it limits your ability to read the room and really see people, which impacts our discussions and can deter some voices. There are days when my steps are in the 100s – a far cry from 10,000 steps as I spend hours sitting in front of my computer in my small office. As an intense iterator it is hard virtually white board without glitches or delays. My takeaway is bend my thinking and take breaks for my body. Without a commute I have no excuse not to get up early and workout. Taking a Zoom call outside is a good idea. Blocking off a lunch hour to have no meetings and change my scenery is good for my mental health.
Adaptability: Thinking and rethinking. I am invigorated and sometimes exhausted by the new level of energy and interest in racial justice and DEI at work these days. The fire has been burning for years but now we have community, leadership, and student interest in taking action. I am inspired by my son and his friends and their social activism. I am proud of my organization for our commitment to health equity and equity for associates. I am thrilled that instead of asking (begging) to integrate DEI into leadership curriculum as I’ve had to do in the past I now have complete support and a heightened expectation for delivery. Opening our minds and hearts can only make us stronger. It is also tiring. There is a wave of white guilt motivating action at a pace and speed that may not be sustainable. There is a pent up demand that is overflowing from associates. We want to work quickly, ensure sustainability, and be inclusive which, like the program management triangle, can be hard to balance. My take away is to use what I know and seek what I don’t. The “I” in DEI is for inclusion – we need the commitment and collaboration from every function to examine, question, and rethink our systems and structures. No one person or plan can undo hundreds of years of systemic racism. Tried and true tools like aligning to the organizational strategy, creating clear execution plans and timelines, and measuring progress are critical in this work. The “D” and “E” mean we must check assumptions, push against biases, and ensure we don’t settle for tried and true decisions but instead engage and reflect our full community.
Treadmilling: New ways of moving. As we prepare to go back to another semester of distance learning, continue our prolonged work from home, and manage social distancing there are time when our days feel like a rinse and repeat. What’s been exciting to see how technology really can personalize learning. I’m inspired by my educator friends and how they are shaping their craft in this new world. I have loved pop up Zoom calls with friends and family from across the world that never happened before. Then there are times when our social limits are tiring. As an extreme extrovert it does not fill my bucket to be home 100% of the time. I have a sophomore and college freshman who both want to be safe, be social, and be active in their sports. At my worst I pout over feeling like Bill Murray in Ground Hogs Day. My takeaway is control the controllables and enjoy the ride. @Janice Payton told me having children would be the best IDP I ever had. She was right. Our current environment is my new IDP. I have to remember I can only control what I can. Instead of resisting or fretting, do what I can and let go of the rest. Setting daily goals both personally and professionally has been a big help to see that it may be a different ride at a different pace but there can still be progress.
I love the term “Corona coaster” to describe the ups and downs of our current reality. In discussions with friends we were struggling to describe both the emotions and actions we are taking everyday. It’s not just being flexible. It’s being flexible while we adapt our systems, structures, and thinking. It’s feeling like we’re on a treadmill and not making motion but then looking down and being impressed with our miles. My description of this concept is Flexadaptmilling and I am working on embracing its good, its challenges, and its lessons.
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