The Process

Greetings from 35,000 feet above the heartland. I am heading, once again, for the bastard cold of Southeast Iowa. This on the heels of a weekend soccer tournament in (the bastard cold of) Decatur, Alabama. The good news there was that S.Rushing scored two lovely goals. The bad news is that those were the only two goals the mighty CFC U-9 Blue scored in three games. Win some, lose some, on to the next one. Late November and early December are proving to be quite the gauntlet. No complaints though, equal parts business and pleasure. I will try to stay on topic for the next weeks, but it with all the exciting goings on it be may be tough though. Plus, you must realize that this is my mother’s primary method of keeping up with me as some of her children “must have broken fingers since they can’t pick up the phone!” I ask your forgiveness in advance if the next few weeks turn into C.Rushing's Adventures.

Obviously, the thing in the multi-verse this week is only the Most Important Iron Bowl of All-Time. Never, in the history of God’s Greatest Rivalry have the both teams been ranked this high entering the game. Never have the stakes been so high. I may well immolate before Saturday. I will most certainly throw up. The rivalry is very complex for me. I was raised an Alabama fan and have lived and died with them since I can remember. I went to graduate school at Auburn and currently serve of the Advisory Council of the graduate program in planning. My inner struggle, however,  has turned out not to be such a struggle at all; I’ve found that my heart and soul roll with the Tide. The turning point would have been the gut-turning 2010 game that also Mr. Updyke off the cliff. That said, I harbor no ill will toward the plainsmen during fifty-one weeks of the year. Such is the importance of this game, however, that I pledge to leave the country if Alabama does not win. (Stay tuned on that.)

Speaking of the Tide, on our way to the soccer this weekend, we listened to a bit of their game on the radio. It happened to be Senior Day, and we listened as Eli Gold went down the list of legendary players who will be graduating this year after four or five years at the school. Graduating as the winningest class in school history and with at least 3 National Championships, I might add. Normally, the shadow of an event such as this is the realization that you’re losing your best players and that leaner times are to come. Fortunately for ‘Bama, however, this is not the case. As a legendary recruiter, Saint Nicolas Saban has also pulled together the nations number one recruiting class five of the past six years. This is one of the facets of his famed Process.

The Process

There is much that city builders can learn from the well-oiled machine that is Alabama football. Think of specific projects to be games within a season, or even seasons unto themselves. It’s great to win. It’s great to celebrate wins. The next game, or next season, however, is always right around the corner. Is it possible to build a great program/city when all of the efforts are focused on winning single games? I suppose its theoretically possible, but over the long term it’s not sustainable.

So how might we go about creating a Process for sustainable success in city building? The cornerstone would have to the establishment of a set of shared principles that are derived from the community, and that guide the process. As with all good teams, coaching is important. In this case, the coaching of the community is a learning process. The process of community education happens in many ways: through overt instruction, through institutional operations, through community conversations and by example. Once equipped with those tools, the members of the team need to understand their role and responsibilities to the community. Further, they must be committed to doing their job, and be held accountable to the rest of the community.

Over the past few weeks, I have probably sounded like a crotchety old man pining for the good ole days. Perhaps there is some truth to this. I am undoubtedly influenced by a man who suggests that we always understand past and present as we look to the future. My take on past and present leads me to the conclusion that we are currently, at best, disjointed as it relates to issues of urbanism and design in our community. While we have the human capital in place to continue the work of making this a great city, we lack a Process for implementing successful urbanism. Do you not think we could create and sustain success if there was means of establishing community principles, providing education, reinforcing roles, and establishing accountability to the whole? Would that not then lead to the recruitment of more talent? Is that not the blueprint for how to win?

Fundamental and of utmost importance to the Process is recruiting. The community must ever strengthen it’s ranks- both from within and outside of its borders. Our challenge is not to reassemble the exact team that led to our successes over the past thirty years. The task should be to assemble a framework that can continually add to and augment a community of thoughtful and engaged designers and citizens.

The beauty of the Process is the promise of the future. It relieves the pressure of the single game. Is Alabama’s long-term success at risk in a single game against Auburn? (the answer is no) Saint Nicholas Saban has created a machine that focuses not on the outcome of a game, but on doing day-to-day tasks to the highest standard. If the aspiration is a sustainable level of success, the focus has to be on process instead of project.

My prediction: The Process 35, Auburn 21.

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