A few months ago, the Assistant Town Manager and I were talking about the stressful nature of New England Town Meeting – working late nights for weeks on end while also keeping up with daily responsibilities. I asked him why department managers felt obligated to come in early or even schedule early meetings the day after a Town Meeting that everyone knows will end after 11:00 p.m. “Because you said they should.” “When did I say that?” “2007.” We looked at each other and burst out laughing. And so, the “Ask Again” movement began.
One drawback to being the leader of an organization for a long time (about 18 years in my case) is that decisions made without the benefit of age and experience can take on Magna Carta-like proportions. In 2007, I was 12 years younger than I am now and had one child still in middle school. That person should not be relied upon for enduring pronouncements.
We relayed this story to our Leadership Team and encouraged them to “Ask Again” when confronted with outdated policies. Needless to say, they were enthusiastic, thinking of many onerous tasks that they would love to shed, and practices that needed updating.
I even announced that all decisions of my predecessor (a mentor and all-around amazing manager) were fair game. After all, he left Town when many of our rising stars were themselves in middle school.
People starting asking whether they had to go to certain meetings – whether meetings needed to be held at all. They asked if hiring and pay policies could be modernized, and expense reimbursement practices streamlined Conversations are happening all around Town about modernizing our approach to work. For example, after years of trepidation, we found a way to allow most employees to work a modified schedule during the summer months. What seems like the norm in some towns is innovation in others.
What would “Ask Again” look like in your organization? Are you willing to challenge leaders to make new decisions in 2019? If you are the leader, do you have sacred cows (like modified summer hours) that you have been unwilling to reconsider? Let our community know what you decide to confront!
It’s time for innovation and longevity to rumble. Let’s practice.