Monday, May 30, 2011

Thoughts on Art and Business

I lingered in bed this morning, enjoying the quiet of the dawning day. The encompassing warmth of my comforter was a pleasant cocoon as I lay there and looked out at the green trees beyond the window and the gray clouds beyond them. I am not sure if the sun is going to break through today, though the weather channel was forecasting what T.R. likes to call a "partly" day. Either way, I am looking forward to the day off. I am supposed to meet some of my friends for breakfast in about an hour and a half, so I am sitting here, writing, drinking coffee, and watching the day open up.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Breakfast, a trip to Best Buy, then a trip up the the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. Tony and I had drifted up there is spend the day just wandering. The weather was very nice, a cool, blue California spring day. Specifically, I'd wanted to go up to see "Illustrated Title Pages" exhibit and I'm planning on going up next weekend to see "The Art of the Book in California" exhibit. I'd considered just waiting until next weekend and going up to see both exhibits at the same time, but I decided to split the trip between two weekends. Sometimes, when you are in a Museum, seeing too many exhibits can dilute the impact of a singular exhibit. The Illustrated Title Pages was a very cool exhibit - the intricacy of the work on the face plates of older books was pretty astound, especially when you consider at it's very heart it is merely lines of varying thickness and spacing. Truly astounding stuff.

We grabbed lunch at the cafe there in the museum and it was also surprisingly good. We ate on the balcony outside of the cafe, overlooking the Rodin sculpture garden. I had a pulled pork sandwich on panini, which was excellent. After that, we checked out the sculptures, always one of my favorite parts of the Cantor Arts Center.

This was all followed by a lazy afternoon at home, including a short nap, a conversation with one of my sisters, reading Li Young Lee, and watching John Carpenters "The Thing" on HBO. Dinner was a tasty home made chili con queso, followed by a quiet evening reading and watching the DVR until "Game of Thrones" at nine. All it all, I have to say that it was a pretty nice day.

I was a little disappointed that I had work intruding on my brain off and on over the weekend. I would have liked to have made a clean separation to enjoy the three day weekend, but things are confused and lacking direction at work lately (not so much from my management, but from upper management), and there seems to be a lot of "activity without a purpose". We seem to be moving around a lot, gathering data, analyzing it - but there isn't a central underlying theme.

When it comes to leadership I've developed what I call "the theory of bright lines". I think the purpose of leadership is to draw bright lines. In short, leaders need to draw three bright lines. These lines delineate two things. The first line, the center-line, points to where the organization is going and the path it needs to take to get there. The second set of lines are the outer boundaries - these lines delineate where the organization is not going to go. These bright lines should clearly define what the organization does and why (the center line) and what the organization doesn't do and why (the boundary lines). The brighter these lines are drawn by leadership the more likely the organization is to be successful, in whatever terms are defined as being successful (the center line).

Leadership is responsible for drawing and communicating these lines. When leadership fails, organizations drift. We're currently caught in a situation right now in the work environment where our leadership is not drawing the bright lines. They are drawing lines, but there is discernible pattern to those lines. It is quite possible that the unifying theme is going to be revealed at some point in the future. More likely, upper management thinks they are drawing those lines clearly and simply doesn't realize that, to those of us in the functional levels, we're just seeing semi-random lines.

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