I’ve come to understand that each time we say ‘yes’ to something, we are saying ‘no’ to something else. It’s the way things get balanced out, I suppose. This kind of balancing act almost always comes up at the beginning of a New Year when so many of us make promises to ourselves about what we want to change. Usually the promises are about personal things, habits or attitudes we’d like to leave behind in favour of something new, better and more progressive.
But, organizations would do well to take this kind of inventory from time to time too. After all, it is attitude and habit that dictates, if not what gets done, certainly how it’s carried out. So a kind of organizational culture check every so often would not go amiss, if only to keep an eye on values alignment. Values “drift” can happen easily in the busyness of the day and give way to less useful behaviours.
In particular, I’m thinking about arrogance… the great time waster.
We are all guilty of taking positions of arrogance. It does not discriminate. When it shows up, it has a way of impeding real progress; of serving only the few at the expense of the many; and of making fools of those who put their own importance ahead of everything else.
Witness this exchange.
*It is an actual radio conversation between a U.S. naval ship and Canadian authorities, off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision
Americans: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again. You divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: This is a Lighthouse. It’s your call.
There you have it folks, a prime example of arrogance at work.
So, as we approach another new year, my wish for organizations and people everywhere, including me, is that we strive to leave behind our arrogance to make room for more productive values and perhaps a more peaceful existence.
It couldn’t hurt. What say you?
*Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations, 10/10/95