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Monday, July 9, 2012

Applying "Lessons Learned"

I sat through yet another "lessons learned" presentation the other day.  Within the emergency management world  this is very common practice.  Every time there is a major emergency or disaster, the impact and response is examined from every angle.  Reports and inquires are written up. Somewhere along the line, someone usually makes a speaking career out of having been there observing the event at the time of the emergency. You don't really have to have done anything heroic at the time (and usually you haven't), you just have to have been there and observed it to then "go on the road" to other emergency managers and first responders explaining what went right and what went wrong and what "lessons were learned". Those of us who weren't at the event flock to hear about it.  We listen to the presentation evaluating what our own response would be like and imagining what we might do differently, or should do differently. And then we go home. Hmm...

The thing is, the "lessons learned" haven't changed much since I first starting hearing these presentations over 20 years ago. It would seem that despite all the examination and talking about it, we haven't really learned the lessons.  Which is to say, we haven't applied the concepts very much.  We haven't changed behavior because of what others have experienced. I don't think we have really learned some of the lessons,.We are more aware of the problems I think. We have progressed in planning and preparation and response, but it really isn't fair to say we have learned the lessons.  At least not all of them.

As I was sitting there, my mind wandered a bit.  Which is perhaps the reason why I haven't applied some of the "lessons learned".  But that's a different post.... What occurred to me and my wandering mind, was that we do the same thing with our personal lives and the challenges we are faced with in our journeys.

We are pretty good at examining our issues.  We sometimes step back and try to access the situation once the dust has settled and think about what we did and what we could have/should have/might have done differently. We might not have acted very heroically, but we were there at the ground level. We gather up our "lessons learned" into a neat package, ready for presentation.  We invite our friends for coffee, or a good stiff drink, or both, and we present our lessons learned. 

Most friends are more than happy to attend the presentation. We will even pay a price for admission in the form of coffee, comfort foods, or a bottle of wine. If you have really good friends, they listen to your presentation without interruption, until you have opened the floor for questions. There are usually questions in the form of "Did you think about doing _____"; "Did you have any problems with __________"  "Did you consider trying __________"  "How did you handle ____""What did you do about __________" etc. The question is rarely asked is; "So what changes have you implemented?".  That's the crucial question and the one that is usually, if asked at all, answered by glossing over it with future plans, unfinished to-do lists, distracting side-bar thoughts, waiting for other organizations to change, and "waiting for budget approvals".  Hmm....

Anne Cameron in "Daughters of Copper Woman", wrote that the Secret Society of Women had a policy on this.  You came to the healing circle, which I interpret as coffee with friends, with your problem, challenges and issues.  You did this because you were looking for outside suggestions. You were allowed to make your presentation without interruption.  But... if you came to the healing circle more than four times with the same problem, and had made no changes in between those presentations, the other members of the circle turned their backs on you- literally.  Wow... Four strikes and you're out!

When I first read that policy I thought it was pretty harsh and not in the flavour of true friendship, but as I continued to read, I understood it differently.  The women weren't turning their backs on the friend, they were turning their backs on blockage of the issue, forcing the woman  to make some changes before bringing it back to the group again.  They were forcing implementation of the lessons learned.  That's true learning and that allows the person to come back to the circle the next time with a different issue. That's progress. And that's allows for collective learning in my opinion.

I'm not sure I could turn my back like that, but I do have a Bach Flower essence that could help. Chestnut Bud is indicated for people when failure to learn by experience is leading to an inability to make progress in life.  It's helpful when you keep going back to the circle with the same issue, the same concern, the same sense of lack, or discontent. It can even be helpful when you find yourself with reoccurring health issues like constant colds, stomach ulcers, migraines, or acne flare-ups. Chestnut Bud is helpful when you are not dealing with the root cause of your discontent.  It can help you see your mistakes from that "distant observation point" so you can really gain the wisdom required to make a change. A few drops of Chestnut Bud can also enhance your ability to observe the lessons of others and to apply that knowledge to change your own life.

Challenges, dramas, traumas and emergencies occur in our lives so we can allow transformation to occur.  It's how we humans learn, in my opinion. It's how we grow. But sometimes it involves getting to the root of the issue, pulling up that root, and transplanting it to a more accommodating spot. At some point we need to stop being observes and analyzers and just do something different to allow the growth.

It's never about changing others. It's always about changing ourselves. So, I think next time I go to the "healing circle", I'll take a few drops of Chestnut Bud before I go.  Maybe I'll bring a bottle of it as my admission fee. And maybe I'll turn my back on myself when I find myself circling the same thing over and over again. I think if I turn around I'll pull up some roots, see a different opportunity, and really make a difference.

Here's to the application process...

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