Neither Cassandras nor Pollyannas, please. Let’s get Real.

Watching Adams Commentary – 10/26/15

I have just read President McClure’s email sent to us all on the 20th, and I note the paragraph which states “the Human Resources department has been inundated with complaints and has been the target of misinformation and negativity.”

Initially I was horrified that some of my colleagues are being targeted, a word I inferred as meaning that they are the victims of personal attacks. Indeed some of the contributors to Watching Adams, by their style, have veered close to being personal. That should never happen. No one person should be blamed for the foibles and snafus that inevitably crop up in any bureaucracy.

But we should not resign ourselves to the myth that incompetence is the inherent nature of big institutions. Such complacency ensures that we as an institution can never get better. That attitude will be the death of us.

We should instead be courageous enough to look at ourselves, and our performance, and admit that we can do better. One famous man said, “Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.”  And that applies not only to Watching Adams columnists, but also Adams State University (ASU) administrators in Richardson Hall.  We should all look at ourselves.

Are we the perfect organization?  Can we really justify using the word “excellence” about ourselves as we do so often when all the metrics suggest otherwise?

Dr. McClure finishes her email with; “What I ask is that we remain focused and committed to our core purpose: To educate, serve, and inspire our diverse population in the pursuit of their lifelong dreams and ambitions.” And I agree with her wholeheartedly. However, I respectfully suggest that while we do not need Cassandras, doomsayers and cynics, neither do we need Pollyannas and pathologically positive thinkers. ASU has problems and they won’t go away if we pretend otherwise. In order to achieve what she exhorts us to do, we need to get real.

I recommend that everyone reads “The Reckoning” by David Halberstam, which recounts how the US car industry’s refusal to admit its own weaknesses led to its near collapse at the hands of overseas manufacturers, and how Toyota’s Kaizen method – the habit of identifying what needs improving before self-congratulation – led to Japan’s rise as an industrial giant.

I also suggest that everyone reads “In Retrospect” by Robert McNamara, where he admits – he, being one of the top advocates for escalation of the Vietnam war – that the inability of two presidential administrations to objectively and rationally look at their own weaknesses ultimately led to America’s greatest military defeat.

Please be kind to each other and tough on ourselves.