Are you sitting there obsessing over the sensation that you’re being squeezed between the anvil of an ever-increasing workload and the hammer of insufficient time in which to get it done? If so, then I’m here to bring you good news. You may now take heart in the fact that you are not nuts; you are not obsessing in vain; you are not hallucinating. Indeed, you may rejoice in the certain knowledge that your senses are so finely tuned that they have picked up on the fact that your day is now shorter than it was at the beginning of the millennium. How much shorter? Well, I figure it to be somewhere around 0.00008 of a second.
This seemingly trivial change in the length of a day is the result of the 9.0-plus undersea earthquake that spawned the tsunami that laid waste to a good portion of the coastal confines of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, killing well over 200,000 people. The alignment of the temblor was such that it actually accelerated the Earth’s rotational velocity by something in the neighborhood of one-millionth of a mile-per-hour, at the same time increasing the planet’s wobble by an amount that was minute albeit measurable. As a footnote here, you may wish to wonder just how many times in the past such cataclysmic events of at least this magnitude have occurred, resetting nature’s basic parameters.
Ah, you say, but this shorter day doesn’t help my situation a bit…in fact, it makes it worse. Yes, for those with a cesium-regulated circadian rhythm, it will increase the squeeze a bit, but as with almost everything in life, it ought to bring us some peace of mind from a philosophical standpoint: First of all, when you realize that this event approximated the impact of the point-source detonation of 200,000 (give or take an order of magnitude or so) Hiroshima-sized weapons, you should feel a sense of relief in the chance that you or I will do anything to match nature’s vast array of forces lodges happily in a nook between slim and none. Of greater importance, however, is the opportunity for us to reflect on the primacy of change in our world and its implicit mandate for adaptability...which brings me to the point for this admittedly far-out digression.
The only thing you need to establish the velocity of change in all walks of life is to pick any convenient date in your personal history and compare your vision of the world then and now. Even if your rearward horizon is only a year or two, isn’t it amazing how few things have remained relatively static?
When you focus minutely on your role within the confines of waste management, you may even be shocked to see what activities have emerged, grown, mutated, and perhaps even died in the course of what, in perspective, is the mere blink of an eye. Care to count a few venues? For starters, contrast today’s wastestream with that prior to the recent downturn. Then look at our approach to its collection, sorting, processing, diversion, and even disposal in just half that period of time. Now consider the societal milieu in which we operate and the public’s expectations for how waste is managed and the extent to which it feels compelled to be affected by the process.
Grabbing Hold of Change
And finally comes the time to not only to confront those exigencies whose full characteristics are for now enshrouded in the mists of an uncertain future, but also to assess the abilities of you and your staff to do so. Just as you brought with you an array of knowledge, skills, and social agenda different from that of your predecessors when you arrived on the scene, so will those who follow in your footsteps. But is it enough to say “good luck” when the time comes for you to step down and pass the torch? If there is one thing that really stands out as a difference between now and decade ago, it’s that the margin for error has shrunk to almost nothing.
With this in mind, I’d like to propose that you have no more important task today than helping to prepare those who will follow to take your baton and race confidently into the future. What does this entail? I can think of no surer way than exposing your people to the decision-making process at every opportunity and giving them increasing responsibility for making at-risk decisions as part of their fleeting-up experience.
And in line with this, let me mention that SWANA’s newly minted Young Professionals Group (YPG) is designed with this task in mind. You will notice, in reviewing the program for this year’s WASTECON, that SWANA has pulled out all the stops on bringing YPG to the center of attention and activities. If you concerned with succession in your organization, then you won’t want to miss this opportunity to bring your acolytes to where they can mix and confer with their peers.