AHA!s:February 2024

This month has been positively revelatory. I have had so many dynamic conversations with people who are/have been thinking through what it means for projects to come to an end. Here are some of my biggest takeaways this month.

AHA! #1: There Are So Many Things That (Need To) Close!

When I initially conceived of working on conscious organization closures, I was thinking more narrowly about traditional, staid non-profits that do things like provide people with food resources or teach children how to read or whatever. However, this month as I kept chatting with other practitioners, I realized there are so many other organizations that are included here — such as schools, museums, cooperative grocery stores, even jails and prisons! And each of these types of containers have a myriad of laws governing how, whether, and when they can close.

As I think about how I want to scope this work, I am already humble(d) enough to know that there will be no such thing as mastery across such a wide swathe of practices. There are lawyers and accountants and other people who can handle the intricacies of paperwork; that can’t be work that I do. However, I can be part of the team that ensures these things happen! Closure is probably not a one-person job — even for the smallest of closures.

AHA! #2: Closure Can Be About Appropriately Meeting The Moment

When we are lucky, the idea or realization that the project needs to close comes from internal discernment, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the organization will be pushed to close either because of controversy or simply because the community needs to make way for something that will better serve it in the moment.

In one conversation this month, I was reminded of water and how it is sometimes ice and other times steam and other times liquid. It is still made up of the same things, but it shows up differently. Something that was something is hard to make nothing. It can dissipate, but traces remain for a long time….

In another chat, I was made aware that the Rubin Museum in New York City, announced that it would shutter its doors and become a “global museum”. The executive director’s statement expressed the organization’s desire to “effectively use our collection, knowledge, creativity, networks, and financial resources in order to best serve you, the public, for the long term and with the greatest impact.” The world didn’t need them to be a fixed location anymore; so they won’t be!

AHA! #3: Cracks Of Doubt Are An Inside Job

In his book, Endineering, my pal Joe Macleod shares the idea of the “crack of doubt” from the book Becoming An Ex by former nun Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh. The crack of doubt emerges when a person experiences a dramatic organizational shift and begins to feel the stirrings of burnout. The burnout leads to cuing behavior. If others around the person pick up on the cues, they will often affirm the initial doubts and widen the crack. If the issues that lead to the initial doubts are not addressed, additional events will only further stress the crack until it becomes a gaping hole.

While a crack can spell the beginning of the end for a person working in an organization, it can take many individuals with many personal “widening cracks of doubt” putting pressure on the organization — by either staying or leaving — before the organization’s leadership begins to see that the organization might no longer be viable. The amount of time this takes could be days, months, or even years. And with some organizations’ incredible ability to continue raising funds regardless of internal turmoil, some organizations can keep the lights brightly on despite their otherwise sort of walking dead state in relation to their staff and the communities they are meant to serve.

To those organizations and the people that work in or with them, I quote the great Bone Thugs N Harmony by saying, “See you at the crossroads.” The practice I am building here is not about telling anyone their organization is terminally ill. I am not an organizational Grim Reaper. I only want to work with people who want to work with me. For the others, I am here if and when they are interested and ready.


2 responses to “AHA!s:February 2024”

  1. MEREDITH Avatar

    ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ‘

  2. I worked for a dance company in the UK that did amazing social justice work but sadly had to go through the closing down of its London branch. It was very sad, with friendships and long term partnerships coming to a messy end. The kind of consultancy you provide would have been very helpful for us back then!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.