All politics is local

Philip Morgan

The next cohort of The Expertise Incubator begins Jan 13, 2020. If you're curious, let me know.

There's been some local drama in the neighboring town of Questa, NM, about 20 minutes from where I sit typing out these letters to you.

This has been brewing in the local news over the previous weeks.

A Questa school board member was sent a letter by the state Attorney General, advising him to resign his seat. Reason: he was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit arson.

Everybody makes mistakes, right?

He defiantly showed up at the next school board meeting and took his usual seat, looking a bit like "come at me, bro" in the news photo. He's not resigning.

There's more drama. This guy -- Ellis Garcia if you want to look him up -- has failed kidneys, gets dialysis 3x/week, and is waiting for a kidney transplant. He says he wants to live life to its fullest in what time he has left which, I guess, includes participating in school board meetings?!

Someone contributed to his medical expenses, but maybe also asked for him to vote a certain way on the issue of closing a tiny elementary school in the district, and so now there are allegations of bribery mixed up in this too.

Oh, and also, Ellis was charged with a sex crime a while back but the case was dismissed because the state forgot to file some paperwork at the right time.

Now the state has stepped in:

The Questa School District is now under the control of the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The department suspended the board over what they call instability in leadership, failing to comply with the Disabilities Education Act and open meetings violations. According to the letter, the district has had four interim superintendents and been under five corrective action plans in less than two and a half years.


Boy, do I remember "corrective action plans" from a year I spent working for a subcontractor to the U.S. Job Corps, a job that taught me more than any other about human nature when contextualized within corporate dysfunction.

Yesterday I was speaking with my friend Marcus Blankenship about a range of things, including change and how we make progress towards a goal.

I think we've all seen some (better drawn) version of the idea below:

(I think Carl Richards, for one, has published a nicer-looking rendition.)

We all want the black path. I think the blue path is often our best case scenario, and the green path the more common and likely scenario.

Change is messy. This has implications for our work with clients:

  • We can monetize both 1) being the cause of change and 2) supporting the subsequent change.
  • We can monetize a client who understands how likely the green path is and wants our help upgrading to the blue path.
  • We should be careful about promising the black path, unless the black path represents something incredibly simple like changing a font on a website.

I often model the decision to specialize as a negotiation between three parties. This holds true within individuals, and within organizations.

You've got the visionary, who sees and believes in a better future as a specialized expert.

You've got the ego, who understands and often fights to preserve the status quo, or at least some form of safety.

And you've got the operations manager, who becomes very resourceful and creative when listening to the visionary, very unimaginative and procedural when listening to the ego, and very overwhelmed and unable to act when listening to both.

With this many hands tugging on the planchette, is there any wonder it draws out that squiggly green path?

This model seems applicable to any significant change, not just specialization. School board governance, marketing, and IT projects too!