Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


My Horse Is Perfectly Fine

Mar 05, 2019

My Horse Is Perfectly Fine

Greetings! It’s been awhile. I took a blogging break (a creative respite?), and now I am ready to go again. As a leader, sometimes it’s important to rework priorities and step away to focus on some other things. The beauty is, you get to come back to what you love with a little more love and some fresh ideas. Are you ready to step into it?

In the 1890s, approximately 150,000 horses lived in New York City (NYC). And well, let’s cut to the chase, each of these horses produced 22 pounds of manure each and every day. The math says that’s 1,204,500,000 pounds of horse poop every year just in NYC. Let’s imagine the flies, the smell, the street cleaners needed, etc. Yuck. Yet the horses were pretty good transportation and, in some cases, a good buddy. They were reliable and friendly and could easily step through the unpaved streets. Most people were just fine. In fact, the first Urban Planning conference held in 1898 concluded with an, “Eh, not much we can change here.”

Only thing is, change happened. Over the next 25 – 30 years, along came the automobile, and by 1930 there were 26.3 million cars and a horse population of 18 million. That’s right, more cars than horses. And a whole new infrastructure sprang up: hay replaced by gasoline; hitching posts with parking lots, unpaved roads with paved roads, stables with car dealers, etc. Some people lost their jobs — stable workers, farmers growing hay and blacksmiths making horseshoes, to name a few. Many of them said, “My horse is perfectly fine. What the heck do we need with these automobiles? I don’t like them, and I don’t want them.”

However, some people said something else. A farmer might have said, “Now I can graze cattle or grow a cash crop.” A stable owner might have opened a service and repair shop (and might even sell cars). People moved to construction jobs to build roads. And more. They didn’t see the end of something. They saw the beginning of something else (something more than just an NYC free of 1.2 billion pounds of poop). They said, “What if…”, “I see…” and “Let’s create…”

Today, many of our organizations are facing similar change. The way we have done things will no longer be nearly as successful. Technologies like blockchain will enable a secure universal ID, allowing people to get faster access to the services they need without the duplication, loss or delay that sometimes occurs today. Communities will be better connected, knocking down agency and program boundaries so those who need services get them more effectively. And more…

As a leader, you can say your horse is perfectly fine. You can ignore the changes coming. Or you can be curious, experiment a little and embrace even better outcomes for the people you serve. Or you can leave them mired in what your horse leaves behind. Your choice. One thing I do guarantee: The new will happen, and some will embrace it. Join the “some” and create a better future for your community.

More of Steve Lipton’s blogs are available online.

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Wipfli Editorial Team

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