Authored by Marty Linsky on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 11:55 AM | 5 Comments
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Reset requires figuring out what of all that you say value is really important and must be preserved, and what of all that you value you must leave behind in order to adapt to a fundamental new reality.
Doing that work is not a lot of fun. It forces you or your organization to modify your self-identity, change who you are, and take a loss of something that was important to your sense of self.
Those are tough choices. We want it all.
A good example of these tough Reset choices is the issue facing the non-profit and foundation community, around the stimulus bill and the Obama budget proposals.
Understandably, the non-profits cannot wait to get their hands on the stimulus money that might flow to their suddenly thin coffers. They are mission-driven organizations and they are facing shrinking resources and increasing demand. The stimulus bill includes about $574 million in various pots for non-profits to continue their good works.
They also say they love the Obama commitment to health care and education in his budget bill, which is consistent with their espoused values of fairness and equal access to those two of the most basic elements of a decent life.
But the non-profits do not like Obama’s proposal to pay for universal health care coverage and quality education in part by capping the deductions for charitable contributions. A cover article in the current issue of The Jewish Week, a New York City-oriented publication, reports that United Jewish Communities (UJC), the voice of local Jewish Federations all around the country, is applauding the budget proposals on health care and education while busy on Capitol Hill fighting the plan to cap the contributions deduction.
Who do they think is going to pay for the health care and education proposals, the people who now have no health insurance and lousy educations?
It is not an easy choice. The non-profit or third sector is a unique characteristic of American life, different from anywhere else in the world, commented on by Alexis de Tocqueville 134 years ago. And no question but that the generous deductions for charitable contributions have helped non-profits do their good works. And many commentators have argued that capping those deductions for wealthy people will hurt the non-profits. On that dimension, at the margins at least, they are probably right. The deduction provides an incentive, although we would like to believe that we donate to charities out of the goodness of our hearts and not because of the tax break. But because of the tax break, our charitable gift actually comes partially from us and partially from the Government.
But if what those folks in the non-profit are all about is creating a more humane and just society, isn’t it about time we made good on our espoused commitment to make decent health care and a good education the life experience of everyone who lives in this country?
Are they more interested in the preservation of their institutions and their particular mission than in the welfare of the people they and other organizations serve?
It is understandable but unseemly for them to want to have it both ways. We all want to have it both ways. We all want to honor all the values we care about and not have to choose among them.
Reset is about having the courage to make those choices.
The Reset Watch. The indomitable Jim Rosenberg has found another Reset reference. In her page one New York Times piece on Monday, about the rich cutting back writer Shaila Dewan said: “If the race to have the latest fashions and gadgets was like an endless, ever-faster video game, then someone has pushed the reset button.”
Another reference: in a long and informative interview in BusinessWeek, my friend, former student, former teaching assistant, and, much more relevantly, former CEO of Fannie Mae Dan Mudd said about housing policy and the Obama Administration: “And it seems to me that the opportunity here is to say: “O.K., let’s hit the reset button.”
And, while he had not used the language of Reset and Hunker Down, Tom Friedman’s last two columns in the New York times, March 8 and March 11, are all about the likelihood that what we are experiencing is a sea change rather than a big bump in the road, where pulling back and waiting until the storm blows over will not be an adequate response.
Doug Trainer sent along an article from a newsletter called The Systems Thinker, which starts from the assumption that the current mess is systemic, and provides some practical if high-level guidance for how managers should actually do Reset.
Finally, if you are interested in the issues around gender and leadership, take a look at this week’s Washing Post blog, On Leadership, for a range of perspectives on the question of whether we would be in this big of a mess if more women were in senior executive positions or on the Boards of Wall Street firms.