Remembering Our Roots

Earlier this month, I took my 5-year old daughter to see the Statue of Liberty. It was at her request that we visit Ellis Island before she begin kindergarten in the fall and it was just as I remembered it from childhood: breathtaking.
I grew up in northern New Jersey, only a short drive from Ellis Island. My ancestors are among those who emigrated from Italy, coming first through Ellis Island before building families in America. My own roots are tied deeply to that special place, and yet I only visited once, as a child.  Going back and experiencing the magnitude of the statue and all that it stands for – through the eyes of my young and inquisitive daughter – was an experience I will not soon forget.
Fast forward one week, and I found myself sitting in a strategy session with two national organizations undergoing a strategic merger. Halfway into the session, our focus was squarely on ensuring success through the transition process, by reflecting on the values and core elements that each organization would bring to the table. The session’s facilitator introduced an exercise in which we needed to imagine life 5 years from now, knowing only one thing: we had failed in our effort to achieve the bold goal of a successful merger outlined 5 years prior.
As the group contemplated what could have led to the apparent failure, we found ourselves deep in conversation about the core strengths of the two organizations. The thinking was that the potential for failure could stem from not adequately knowing, protecting and periodically revisiting those organizational roots.
Like a family, every organization has its beginnings when the roots are established. Too often though in strategic visioning exercises, we focus so heavily on the future potential of what can be, or playing out the desired outcomes of our goals, that we fail to properly reflect on our roots.
The events of these last several weeks reminded me that in our history, our futures are formed.  Checking in from time to time on what first mattered, what you first set out to achieve and what you’ve learned along the way can have a significant impact on future success.
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