Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.


February 2018
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Recognize (& Celebrate) Progress

Several months ago I helped a community conduct an open planning session where they set five goals. Since then I have had contact with several of the leaders of that effort and the impression they gave me was that very little, if anything, was happening in the way of follow-up. To get things back on track we decided to do a follow-up community meeting.

Imagine my surprise when each of the goal committees started listing their activities and accomplishments to date. For the most part they had made substantial progress and had certainly been busy working on their chosen goal. So why did most people assume nothing was happening?

Unrealistic Expectations As a society we are into ‘instant’ everything. From fast food to just-in-time manufacturing. Two things to consider with our community goal setting. First, the goals they picked were challenging. (In one case, v-e-e-e-r-y challenging.) Second, the folks working on the individual goal committees were all volunteers. For the most part they weren’t able to devote every waking hour to working on completing that goal. Given these two considerations, the progress made was not only substantial, it was in a couple of cases downright amazing.

Poor Communication By this I don’t necessarily mean that people didn’t talk with each other because they did. What wasn’t being clearly communicated was the progress being made. Not sure why that happened but I think it goes back to our expectations again. The only measure of success we tend to use is, “Is it done?” when we should be asking, “What steps has your committee identified and what progress has been made?”

We need to do a better job of recognizing realistic progress and we certainly need to let the people involved know that the efforts to date are appreciated. I’ve worked with community projects for years and what these folks are accomplishing is impressive.

Bring out the party hats and let the celebration begin!


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