The Forestry Source - May 2012 - (Page 5)
SAF Leader Lab
Leadershift and the Profession: Will Forestry Leaders Adapt, Migrate, or Die?
By Tom Davidson t’s not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory,” said W. Edwards Deming, the father of the total quality movement. His statement puts a fine point on an aspect of leadership that is timeless, critical for success, and familiar to most foresters. The corollary to the forestry profession is striking, because, like all organisms in nature, organizations and leaders have the same three choices: adapt, migrate, or die. Changes in Forestry We don’t have to look far for examples of adaptation, migration, or obsolescence in forestry. The contemporary environmental movement has changed the way forestry is practiced in this country, and citizens around the world have required us to adjust to their expectations regarding endangered species, fiber certification, and best management practices to better protect water quality, biodiversity, and aesthetics. In addition: Forestry schools have changed their identities and curricula to adjust to the demands of students and the educational marketplace. Forest products companies have divested millions of acres and now depend more fully on wood supplies from thirdparty timber investment management organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs). Forestry consultants are leveraging technology to provide what clients need more of today (see “Recession: Sewall Co. Adapts to Changing Economic Times,” in the January edition of The Forestry Source). The US Forest Service has been wound into “an increasingly immobilizing Gordian knot” of laws, judicial decisions, and conflicting interest groups, according to Chief Emeritus Jack Ward Thomas. A group of agency retirees sees a need for a structural and cultural transformation, and for the es-
tablishment of a US Forest Service management and leadership academy [see the essays by Thomas and Les Joslin, on page 1]. Clearly, our environment has changed, and so have we. Yet more change will be needed and probably at a faster rate. Changes in Leadership Forestry leaders need to continue adapting, not only to the social environment but also to a very different workplace. Managers who were once empowered by their experience, tenure, and positional authority now have to earn respect and mobilize followers in new, even more artful ways. For instance, newer leaders are more loyal to their careers than their employers or professions. They change jobs and careers at a record rate, seek learning opportunities to keep themselves marketable, and strike a new kind of work-life integration on the job. Also, younger associates don’t automatically respect their leaders because of their tenure or experience, especially leaders who don’t use technology proficiently, provide needed resources or information, or look out for them and their personal career goals. Whether these younger associates have the entrepreneurial spirit and survival mentality of Generation X or the self-confidence and high expectations of Generation Y, our young leaders demand to be engaged, informed, and empowered like none other. Great Managers Don’t Grow on Trees Unfortunately, after years of downsizing, lean manufacturing, and new economic realities, we find a relatively thin bench strength of ready leaders. Traditional methods of preparing them for their future roles have been cut for decades by lack of resources, patience, time, money, or all of the above. tion essential to the real restoration and transformation so sorely needed by the Forest Service. But the Forest Service has yet to produce a General DePuy to initiate—even if one or more individuals perceive the need for—such a process. Others, the equivalents of his lieutenant colonel “brain trust”—some are retired Forest Service “generals” and “colonels” who perceive the need for change that “must be instituted from the top”—have. They have assumed “no less a task than remaking, or at least rethinking, the role and structure of the entire” US Forest Service. One, Forest Service Chief Emeritus Jack Ward Thomas (a Pacific Northwest Forest Service retiree—an OldSmokey), writing in the fall and winter 2011 issues of Fair Chase magazine, published by the Boone and Crockett Club [see page 1], has written the much-needed prescription that, ideally, “would be the certain trumpet to guide the management of the national forests and the Forest Service.” This “general’s” prescription must be read, understood, and heeded by those with the power to implement it. Another small group (mostly OldSmokeys) has written a corollary prescription that focuses on a structural and cultural transformation of the Forest Service and an evolution of the leaders and
The Forestry Source
Like seedlings fighting for sunlight and nutrition, our new leaders ascended slowly at first. But the canopy of the two preceding generations is giving way by natural evolution (i.e., the exodus of “Traditionalist” executives and the rapid rate of retirement among Baby Boomers). Our new leaders are bursting through to the sunlight and are being thrown into huge responsibilities with high visibility, risk, and uncertainty. They are taking on leadership jobs that require them to be even more skilled in communications, human behavior, and a wider range of leadership skills than previous generations. Unfortunately, they didn’t learn these skills in mensuration or silviculture classes. While confident and skilled in the sciences and technologies, are they prepared for their leadership jobs in this brave new world? Will they be able to find the best balance points between diverse forests and diverse human stakeholders? Will they help forestry survive as an applied science? Will they find a way to somehow blend it with other professions that have similar interests and missions? The answer to the first question is no. The answers to the rest are still unfolding. In the face of all the challenges facing forestry today, the profession needs to focus more of its time, talent, and energy on helping these young professionals fill their own shoes—not ours. As the Society also embarks on this mission, our president and council have a newly invigorated strategy to accelerate their readiness, help members adapt, and ensure a future that is as bright as our past. Fortunately, we have maintained some momentum by attracting talented people to the profession. You’ve probably met some of these young people as they emerged from forestry schools, attended our leadership academies, and joined our chapters and divisions. More good news: a large percentage of participants in the Heartland SAF managers needed to answer Chief Thomas’s “certain trumpet” that has been wending its way toward those with the power to implement it. The group has produced a white paper that shows the way. [The paper is available on the Source Extras page: www.safnet.org/members/ archive/source_extras.cfm.] The way comprises: Structural Transformation to a leadership and management hierarchy focused on implementing National Forest System management law, plans, policy, and practice on the ground. Field units would be relieved of much of the staff work burden that currently precludes much effective fieldwork—presence, protection, and project implementation—on ranger districts of appropriate size serving identifiable communities and coherent geographical areas. Cultural Transformation (CT), defined as reviving and instilling traditional Forest Service core values as the basis for restoration and rejuvenation of the Forest Service as a corps of capable and competent “forest rangers” in coordination with the current CT mix of social programs and projects. This would produce a corps of forest officers who pride themselves as members of a valued public service and not as employees of just another government agency.
Leadership Academy, held last year at Southern Illinois University, stepped quickly forward into leadership roles, encouraged by the heart of their mentors and by their own personal missions and visions of the future. As the organizers of that event knew, however, great managers don’t just grow on trees: we have to invest in their development. We must find new ways and recommit ourselves to helping them grow—and fast. We owe it to them and we owe it to the future of the profession. Join the Conversation One contribution will be this new quarterly column on leadership in The Forestry Source and an interactive online dialogue on the subjects we raise here and beyond. Here’s what you can do: Share this and future SAF Leader Lab columns with your colleagues and young professionals. Submit your questions and topics of interest for future columns. Join the real-time discussion on leadership on the SAF group on LinkedIn with your questions, situations, and advice (www.linkedin.com). Participate in the leadership sessions at this year’s National Convention in Spokane while still enjoying the forest science and technology workshops at the heart of our profession. Working together, we will all adapt better to a changing world and avoid the prospects of migration or obsolescence that were Dr. Deming’s warning to us all. Tom Davidson is a forester and leadership consultant, and author of The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. More information, blogs, tips, and articles on leadership can be found at DavidsonLeadership.com. E-mail suggestions and questions for this column to Tom@DavidsonLeadership.com and converse with him about leadership on SAF’s LinkedIn Group. A national US Forest Service Academy that would serve as the intellectual and cultural wellspring of the Forest Service and the institutional home of the necessary creativity and resourcefulness that a restored and transformed Forest Service requires for success at a well-defined mission implemented by a well-structured agency working under severe fiscal constraints. This white paper, “An Agency to Match the Mountains,” holds in its subtitle that “A US Forest Service for the twenty-first century requires strategic development of leadership and management professionals true to traditional values and responsive to future challenges.” The retiree brain trust hopes leadership gets and acts on the message in that white paper while there is still time. Les Joslin, a retired US Navy commander, is a former US Forest Service firefighter, wilderness ranger, and staff officer, and a former Oregon State University College of Forestry adjunct instructor. He lives in Bend, Oregon, where he writes Forest Service history and edits the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association’s OldSmokeys Newsletter (oldsmokeys .org). This essay was first published in the Spring 2012 edition of the newsletter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Colonel Powell went to work for him. The war in Vietnam was winding down badly, and the army was on the rocks. The results of an Army War College survey of 450 lieutenant colonels (most had served in Vietnam) “blasted the Army for not facing its failures.” The most devastating attack was on the integrity of the senior leadership and “the whole façade of illusion and delusion. Their leaders had let them down…. The Army had created its own mess, and the report made no bones about who was ultimately responsible: ‘Change, therefore, must be instituted from the top of the Army.’” The survey “leaked out and raised a ruckus” and had to be acted upon. General DePuy, who “stood in the front rank of [the] reformers, … assigned himself no less a task than remaking, or at least rethinking, the role and structure of the entire US Army. To do so, he had gathered around him the sharpest lieutenant colonels he could find, and had set them up as his personal brain trust.” Those lieutenant colonels came up with a plan to meet that challenge. There is, in General Powell’s story, precedent for the institutional introspec-
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