Friday, April 3, 2009

Hard labor

Anybody who is a member of a board of directors or occupies an administrative position in almost any organization these days is in the same boat. It's time to face fiscal realities but at the same time try to move forward into the future.

This weekend, that's what we'll be trying to do in Montreal. In this opulent hotel, surrounded by a beautiful city and an attentive staff, we're looking at very difficult decisions.

Yet at the same time, they're very easy. Because first, there are really no alternatives to them, besides mortgaging our future and crippling our mission. We're in the fortunate situation, actually, of having a few places to go where making changes means enhancing the long-term health of the organization, because they are changes that are going to be made at some point anyway -- and the sooner the better.

And second, they're easy because without them, we're spending money on plugging a hole rather than investing to meet the needs of the new reality. Each decision, considered by itself, is painful. Each decision, though, considered in terms of our responsibility to the organization's viability, is easy. And as soon as people see that, the unanimity is quite remarkable.

I'm no financial wizard. I'm indifferent at balancing my own checkbook (now that online banking does it for me). I wouldn't know a net unrealized gain or loss from a hole in the ground. So I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to be tutored by people not only of great expertise, but of uncommon wisdom. My confidence in the plan we on the Finance Committee are recommending tomorrow is solid. Best of all, it seems to be a way, at least in some areas, to turn a crisis into an opening for needed change -- and exciting opportunity. So even though there might be some fireworks when people are brought face to face with the stark numbers (especially the ones in parentheses), I'm looking forward to seeing the nods around the table as what we can see -- ten and twenty years down the road, that is, not just the roadkill at our feet -- becomes visible to everyone.

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