Apple's Seedlings

Note that this post follows Journey Into the Abyss - RichRod at Michigan. It is not necessary to read that one, but it might provide some additional continuity for those who are interested.

Imagine being in the situation where you have supervised a group but have now moved on. The new group you are joining still has its supervisor in place. Your new position will become available after the organization makes one more major effort, so you just have to sit in the background for a while.

The current supervisor tries to include you into the operations of the organization. He asks your opinion and introduces you to your future colleagues. Meanwhile the organization you will be joining prepares for its big event under someone else's direction.

You feel you were born to lead and are a person of action. You know you will get your opportunity shortly. But it is still hard not to backseat drive while the car is careening down the highway. It is both sweet and sour when the big event comes off successfully for the organization.

Your predecessor moves on and you move into his shoes. You have different – more modern – ideas about how to operate things. Some of the personnel are leaving as a matter of course, others will be leaving because they have no loyalty or stomach for you or your ideas. It is time to replace a large number of people who you will be working with, and replace them with people having different kinds of outlooks and talents than the organization has ever had before.

It is a task you have done before – and successfully! It takes time. The immediate productivity will be low. But you have confidence gained from previous experience that the long term results will be to ensure your new organization is much more competitive in the modern context than it was before. The alternative to your efforts, as you see it, is to let your new organization become second-class.

To complicate matters, your departure from your previous organization was less than amicable. Not only did customers get upset, but your colleagues seemed to have a different picture of your role there and of your departure than you did. Your leaving was, to put it bluntly, contentious and soon became litigious. Your family was insulted and your old home was vandalized.

Many of the customers and colleagues of your new organization seem to understand what you are trying to do, and accept the need to build slowly. They feel as you do that your new organization has to be brought into the twenty-first century, and it would not be easy to do that. But other customers have deep reservations about your plans, feeling that there should be a way to accomplish the goals without destroying what the organization has meant to them and to tradition.

It is January 2, 2008 and you are about to begin your rebuilding task even as some doubt the need to rebuild. You are competing for new personnel with traditional rivals across the continent, rivals who now seem to feel that they have an edge up on you because of your and your new organization's troubles. Through the long winter and the slowly brightening spring, you try pull your chestnuts out of the fire. You don't expect to win them all, of course, but you feel that you have taken credible first steps.

At the end of spring, you have your first attempt at training the combined old and new personnel. They are not yet what you want, but they are what you have to work with. They are skilled, but their skills are not always what you desire. And throughout the summer, you plan how to get the most out of those you have while keeping your ultimate goal in mind.

And two days before Labor Day, you have the opportunity to lead your organization for its first big event under your leadership. You hold your breath as your personnel move out to meet their challenge. You know they will do their very best but doubt whether their best is sufficient. The customers turn out a tenth of a million strong. Some are bleeding with you all the way, some would like to see you fall on your face.

But the season is under way. It is now August 30, 2008 and Michigan hosts Utah at football in the Big House.


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