2014 Was a Dot Year

Timeline_of_My_Life-596x300This illustration is of someone’s life timeline (not mine). Have you ever been asked to draw one? This exercise allows you to share a quick overview of your life with a zigzagging line. Dots are labeled with a year (or age) at key points where the line bends to a new direction, where key changes occurred: moves and marriages, births and tragedies

2014 was a dot year for us.

There have been other dot years for me: ‘55, ‘64, ‘72, ‘78, ‘82, ‘85, ‘89, ‘90 and ‘97. Some of these represent changes in geography (‘55, ‘78, ‘85, ‘90), others show key changes in family relationships (‘64, ‘72, ‘82, ‘89) and in careers (‘78 and ‘97). Each of these numbers has a story to tell, though not here. Available on request. 🙂

All three of these kinds of change—geography, family and career—occurred last year. We moved to SLO, had engagements and a wedding, and I left Intel to begin consulting and teaching. Somehow it is fitting that the next course I teach at Cal Poly’s College of Business is “Managing Change.” To my list of instructor qualifications I will simply add: “2014.”

In business we love clean, crisp, quick changes. We prefer changes that are compactly described and efficiently implemented. And yet the human adjustments to these changes—the “transitions” we might call them—are often overlooked. These are the messy HR issues, the complicating and (we think) unnecessary distractions to corporate change. “We’re doing this, here’s why. Get over it.”

And yet these transitions are precisely the area where change management efforts often fail. Productivity lags in the wake of many changes. Costs increase to backfill for increased employee turnover and to provide remedial training. To overlook human transitions in a corporate change initiative is to make the change into a cure that is worse than the disease.

Good companies will manage human transitions. They will help employees understand what stays the same (i.e. what is not lost) and what is different (what is gained). They will help employees regain control, refresh their competencies in new settings, and understand the rationale for the change.

So now to take some of my own advice. What is continuous with the past and will never change? And what will I need to celebrate as past, to remember sweetly and to which I bid good-bye? What new shapes will my competencies take and in what new contexts will these old skills find new expression? And what is the narrative that makes sense of this all (why did we do this?)

The deep things at the center cannot change, and do not change. These include: Relationships with God and family, friendships built on affection, service and shared history, and my vocation/purpose as a facilitator for thriving people and teams. I cannot control how any of these change because of others’ decisions, but from my standpoint these are the wire strands at the center of the cable, the ones that do not break.

Yet much around these things is changing. We will worship in a new place; we have a new son-in-law, and very soon will gain another; we will build new family traditions, new geo centers and new memories (Christmas in Roseville has became Christmas on the Central Coast for 2014).

My brothers, cousins, in-laws and all the kin in radiating ancestry boxes linked by marriages and births, these are forever yet also changing. Like form-shifting specters, there’s a different shape at each glance, but the center holds. We still share love and prayers with friends from the years, and then also we meet new neighbors around the corner from our unfinished house in Serra Meadows.

Everything is the same. And different. And that’s OK. The narrative / rationale is that we are closer to kids and in an area where we seek to apply our old selves in new ways. But really, still, how much has changed? The center holds.

What will be the angle of the line that leaps into the future from the 2014 dot? We will get a bit of 2015 under our belt and then let you know.

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Retire from Intel? What does that mean?

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Does this guy look like he’s ready to retire?

Retirement, as a word, carries a different meaning for me than any of those found in a dictionary or thesaurus: to give up work, go to bed, step down, be pensioned off or be put out to pasture.  These are classic, but not one works as a definition of my retirement.

There is nothing wrong with taking a classic retirement and leading a full life in post-employment. But for me, for this moment, retirement is simply the technical term for a program at Intel. It is the name of the doorway through which I pass, though it does not describe my life on the other side.

Life on the other side of the door is about having a purpose and applying that in service to a cause. I cannot retire from that. And it is yet uncertain what that cause will be, though there are some wonderful possibilities for my employment. But it will be meaningful, to a purpose, and it will add value.

When that takes shape and is realized, I will let you know what it is.

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Applying team learning in a hands-on simulation / challenge. And the contraption worked! (in Arizona, 2006)

By saying these things I do not infer that Intel could not continue to provide a setting for passionate value-based work. Intel is a wonderful employer, a corporation that wants to connect the world. And the several jobs I had over my 16-½ year career had clear objectives that could be described meaningfully.

It was just time.

I have worked on 8 teams with 14 different managers. I have had the wonderful satisfactions of leading in org re-design, creating and deploying development programs, managing change and transition, supporting, leading teams, teaching and consulting.

With our Guadalajara team after a day's work (2013)

With our Guadalajara team after a day’s work (2013)

With yet another season for Intel to sort, sift and adjust—and with many of the remaining org development practitioners (including me) now scanning the landscape for new gigs, I chose to find the next one outside this time.

This intends no negative critique of Intel’s restlessness. It is an exciting and dynamic business, morphing and refusing to rut itself, running hard in a marketplace with products that become obsolete

2010 Instructor of the Year. Folsom site; V Gould conferring the honor.

2010 Instructor of the Year. Folsom site; V Gould conferring the honor.

every 18 months. If we blinked for even half a heartbeat, a competitor lunged ahead in an attempt to dominate a market. We all needed to hang on, ride the waves, and persist in adding value wherever we worked.

It is exciting, actually. But I had a restless spirit last fall, and my eyes began to scan the horizon for a new setting in which to bring value, to apply a mission of developing thriving individuals and organizations. I had an option to retire and took it, and will use it to enter on a new passion.

Maybe I should coin the term refirement. Does that work?

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A day off during a trip to our UK (swindon) site; here at Bath (2007)

Dinner transpo in Malaysia

Dinner transpo in Malaysia

Blowing off steam after class, Dublin.

Blowing off steam after class, Dublin.

Shanghai

Shanghai

Lunch with HR team, Malaysia

Lunch with HR team, Malaysia

Leading a session, Malaysia

Leading a session, Malaysia

Leading a session in Folsom

Leading a session in Folsom

Tour day after a week in Tel Aviv

Tour day after a week in Tel Aviv