Roaring March

I was looking forward to class tonight at Simmons College. I look forward every week to teaching my Monday night class – Strategic Communications and Organizational Change.

But this week I was especially looking forward to today. I’d lined up a great guest speaker (Toni Troop,  Director of Development and Public Relations at Jane Doe Inc) to speak to the class about working with the media. I always learn so much from hearing a seasoned pro like Toni.

After class, I was going to spend the evening just outside of Boston with friends that I don’t see that often – another missed pleasure to reschedule.

Instead, it snowed. At lot. A real Northeaster. We got about a foot of snow here in Providence. (I should have expected it as my crocuses were just popping above the soil. Luckily, this year the snow arrived before the blossoms (at least so far) and for that I am grateful.

Simmons canceled all classes as weather alerts remain in effect for Boston through this afternoon.

So, instead of jumping into the work that was planned for this morning, I’m rescheduling, rescheduling.

Today’s snow reminds me once again how much we are part of larger systems we simply can’t control.

I remember the days when a snow day was an unexpected but completely welcomed gift. Now they seem such inconveniences. Last year, a big birthday bash we had planned was completely snowed out and even neighbors a street away couldn’t make it.

Each semester, we discuss the importance of having a systems perspective. And how that systems perspective is essential to learning to think strategically.

To get an idea of how complicated systems can be, I ask my students to map all of the various systems that my class finds itself part of. Typically, they’ll map the department, the college and maybe its place in the higher ed system. Many will show systems like the family systems of the students, the political system and financial systems that influence student choices or higher ed. Last week, a particularly enterprising group of students mapped the “systems of knowledge” that influence their learning.

This year, we all forget to mention the weather …  that natural system that creates snow days or washes out our outdoor events. While we can’t control the weather, we can do our best to have contingency plans – which I am now scrambling to create.

Just as we can’t control Mother Nature, we also can’t control all of the various systems that influence the future of our organizations. But we can project ahead how we might respond to different scenarios. And then do our best to prepare so that we can be ready.

Specifically relating to the weather..  take a closer look at the risks that your organization might experience. While you can’t prevent them (hurricanes, tornados, etc), you can do your best to have contingencies that allow you to recover rapidly (e.g. enough of the right insurance). A good place for assistance in thinking about risk and how to prepare is the Nonprofit Risk Management Center.

Happy snow day.


P.S. A bright spot… this morning when I got up and looked out my kitchen window into the still swirling snow , I was greeted with the loveliest Flicker who was pecking away at the suet feeder. We don’t see Flickers that often on our feeder, so when one of these large and beautifully colored woodpeckers decides to grace our feeder, it is a pure delight.

I guess Mother Nature decided to send me a small gift to lessen the inconvenience of the snow. For that, I’m grateful.

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