Gentle Reader, I concluded my last entry with the following:
It is in this spirit of sharing that I will reflect on some events in history in which heroic changes were made swiftly – sometimes at great cost of life and property – and ask the disconcerting question, ‘What if skillful gradualists had been more influential than confrontationalists in that situation?
This morning I will continue exploring this question. Given this question Greenleaf writes:
How might the quality of the resulting society have been affected?
…I will address these questions and examples from the perspective of my special calling, a student of organization, how things get done. I have been an institution watcher since I was twenty-one and received that fateful advice from my professor. I began with a critical look at the college where I then was… And I have been examining critically every institution I have had a chance to look at…
And rarely have I been able to give any institution high marks when this question is asked: What is reasonable and possible service by this institution with its available resources, human and material? Very few institutions, including the most prestigious, scale above mediocre. The opportunities for dedicated gradualists in this world are limitless.
…Whether a life has been spent observing flowers, antiques, or paintings those who pursue their fields with concentration are apt to see things that the casual observers might miss. So it is with an institution watcher.
And what I hope to show about the role of gradualism is how it looks to a student of organization who is prepared to raise some questions about celebrated events and actions where a ‘solve it quick’ confrontation tactic was used.
One result of a long commitment to gradualism is a belief in the reconstructability of our many institutions, large and small, if an ethic can emerge that encourages more of the strong people who evolve to resist the temptation to go immediately for the ‘quick fix’ and at least reflect on the slow but sometimes more effective gradualist approach.
…I have in mind the lives of two great culture shaping gradualists… The first of these is John Woolman (1720-1772)…
Gentle Reader, we will pick up John Woolman’s story next time. In closing – and in preparation – I leave us with the following counsel:
Become the change you want to see. –Gandhi