Planned Obsolescence

It's the kind of thing you hate about the technology in your new phone, but the trait you need to cultivate for yourself as a board or committee member. You need to render your presence obsolete, unnecessary to the success of the organization.

Walk with me. Talk with me.

Planning for your eventual obsolescence—your exit from said committee or board—is the best way to leave things better than you found them. And paradoxically, to leave a lasting impression. The key here is LASTING. I mean lasting success that results from the cool ass systems you put into place. Not an impression as in, "Man, Monica really left us high and dry. She was the only one who knew how to pull that newsletter together."

They won't remember how great it was when you were there. They'll be too busy trying to figure out how to fill the gaping hole you left in their communication plan or whatever niche you filled when you were in service to them.

Anon, some suggestions for leaving them with love:

Don't Just Do It. Nike be damned, y'all. Make sure you're not pulling some martyr weirdness and taking on responsibilities or tasks that need a longer shelf life than your brief tenure. Delegate and at least make sure everyone knows what's going on.

Great Expectations. If you are performing critical tasks, build that expectation into the role and train your successor. Make it clear what's expected as a committee chair (or whatever) and ensure the incumbent is prepared to tackle everything with ease.

Write It Down. If you've developed an annual communication plan over the course of your service, get it in writing and leave it with the executive director to share with the next person. If there are relationships you think it's beneficial for the person in your position to have (designers, other organizational contacts), put that down too so the board recruiting committee knows what kind of things to look for when scouting new board members.

Smell Ya Later. Don't fall off the face of the earth. Be available to chat with your successor, take them for coffee or lunch and let them know you're happy to answer questions and share tips.

What other things can people do to leave boards and committees even stronger when they make their exits? Comments, comments ... Share them on the M&C Facebook page and on Twitter.

Discipline: The Undervalued Value

Face it. Discipline's a drag.

No one wants to impose discipline. Be the heavy. Stick-in-the-mud.  Curmudgeon.

Even fewer want to be on the receiving end.

No so the creative spark. Spontaneous. Fresh. Exciting.

Yet, I would contend that the difference between a flash of creativity and a creative professional is discipline.


  • It takes discipline to listen, especially when a client expresses concerns about an idea you’ve proposed, copy you’ve written, or a proposed design. The first instinct to defend your work; the more disciplined (and professional) response is to try and set aside prior conclusions and genuinely hear what is being expressed.
  • It takes discipline to produce, especially when you don’t feel like it. One of my earliest hires held a Hemmingway-esque view of writing … ever sure that as she waited, her muse would come. With all due respect to spontaneity, newsletter calendars, blog schedules, and production deadlines are more rigid in nature; to the more disciplined (professional) individual, inspiration is often an active, not merely passive, endeavor.
  • It takes discipline to maintain consistency and voice (build a brand), and at the same time be fresh and responsive. Especially when, in our quest for self-improvement, we come across an enthralling new approach or technique. The flash of brilliance is so powerful and immediate, it's often only the more disciplined (professional) person who will also maintain the long-term perspective
  • Double, or triple-checking your work. Making it to meetings on time. Taking care of nitty-gritty project details, even (especially!) those "beneath your pay grade." The daily opportunities to hone this skill–to strengthen the value–abound.

Unfortunately, I've found that discipline typically can't be enforced.

Like inspiration, it must be engendered…a process that hinges on the individual's own insight, impetus and initiative.

Maybe that's why I so prefer working with professionals.

To Clarity, Commitment, and Courage.

"We're supposed to be really good at this.

That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers,

but it's hard for them to tell you what they want

when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

I've been a Macintosh fan since I first sat down to a 512 "Fat Mac" nearly 30 years ago.

And, like many people, I've long been intrigued by Steve Jobs. Especially after reading Frank Rose’s West of Eden – the Sculley vs. Jobs conflict framed as an East-meets-West showdown – when it hit the stands in the late ‘80s.

I was saddened to hear of his passing this week.

So much so, I avoided reading any of the ubiquitous reportings and retrospectives the past few days.

Until this morning's New York Times column, "How Jobs Put Passion Into Products." James Stewart pulled the above quote from a 2000 Fortune magazine article.

It's a bold perspective.

One that calls for clarity. For commitment. And for courage.

A professional’s perspective.

With the kind of clarity that comes from continuing to hone your skills. Continuing to learn. To grow. So that, in fact, you are "really good at this."

The kind of commitment that’s willing to argue for what you think is right. Even when that doesn’t fit the public’s (or client’s) “vision” for the project.

The kind of courage that’s willing to risk failure. Because, even when we do what we think is best, there’s no guarantee of success. And even after a failure, we have to be willing to move forward. (See "clarity" above.)

I am sorry that we have one less visionary with us today.

But I am also grateful for the fruits of his passion.