Onward! #5

July 24, 2020

Dear PACE donors and friends,

Many years ago, in one of my first ‘professional’ jobs, I worked for a large bank.  Many inspiring posters of mission statements and lofty values were plastered everywhere in those office.  None of these words had anything to do with the daily operations of the bank — the real way it worked was much less grand and inspiring than what was on the walls.  It’s a good bet that we’ve all experienced organizations that say one thing and do something completely different.

At the same time, there are other outfits that consistently live at or above their aspirations, whose results are consistently excellent, who, despite personnel and market changes, prove to be adaptive, creative, pleasing to their customers, and whose members seem very alive and engaged.  It’s as though the company brings in ordinary people and sets them free to be extraordinary.

As a leader helping to shape and form anew this organization, I am very aware of the difference outlined above, and very focused on building the latter here — a system, an association, that in itself is remarkable and resilient, whose consistent output is marked by Excellence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to accomplish this, as nothing to me would be as disappointing as creating a cynical, unfulfilling, bureaucratic, unresponsive, and wasteful team.  Thankfully, the current Staff at PACE shares this passion, and we are to a person “all in” on creating something special that will carry out the work, serve the community, and transform the Eastside.  What follows are some of my current thoughts on how we accomplish this, and what we are doing to bring them to life.

First, we are going to be an excellent organization because we decided to and have decided to do the difficult things to get us there.  Our affiliation itself will be somewhat of an innovation in our field, organized intentionally to set each Staff member free to perform at a high level.  While this might only be lofty words here as well, our deciding is an important step, as we could have simply called Excellence a value and never decided to take the harder road to deliver it.

Second, we’ve chosen from the start of this reset to be intentional about culture, realizing that organizations are always generating and building a culture either by design or by default.  Our culture has changed completely in a few short months, with lots of teamwork and shared accountability, much shorter turn-around times, a much higher volume of quality work being generated, honesty & transparency, and long-range solutions being created and adopted in all areas.

Additionally, it was clear that, in order to set the Staff free in the way we hoped, we had structural issues that needed to be addressed. So, we started with our Governance, and completely reformed how our Board and Staff interact, with clear lanes of authority.  We have revamped our committee structures and processes, giving clear charges and questions to them, and we have improved our preparation and follow-up.  This is still a work in progress, but it is a fairly radical shift in a short time.

We are also focused on the outcomes the community wants — a fantastic performing arts center; programmed in a creative and responsive way; innovative uses of space and ways to be entertained, exposed, and educated; all contributing to meaningful experiences with family and friends.  The temptation here is to focus directly on the desired results, ignoring the system that must be in place to deliver, maintain, and adapt those outcomes over time.  But we’ve realized that the best and most financially sustainable way to deliver that is by creating a dynamic and responsive organization that is marked by a vibrant team doing great work.

As we continue to build and grow, you will find us doing the good, hard things needed to bring Excellence to bear in all of our workings and outcomes — the Eastside expects, deserves, and rewards nothing less.  Even when we stumble or fall short, we have a shared resolve that won’t easily be deterred, and we have you to hold us to account for these words.  It’s a fun journey and we are glad to be on it with you.

Thanks for reading,