This past week I had the pleasure of enjoying the beauty that is Jamaica. As my family and I landed in Montego Bay and jumped on a bus headed to Ocho Rios, we could not help but admire the magnificent landscape. Passing my breathtaking tree kissed mountain tops, my eyes quickly caught an eerie sight: houses abandoned in a state of partial construction. Being from the bustling suburbs of rapidly growing housing developments, I was utterly shocked to see the absence of driven construction workers bringing the structures to living conditions. Instead, roofless concrete buildings stood like ghost towns. On our full hour and a half ride through the Island, dozens of houses shared this commonality.
After speaking with some of the locals, I quickly discovered that in Jamaica, it is commonplace for one house to take up to three generations before completion! My mind was blown by this concept! In the United States houses are often completed in a matter of months. Jamaican homes are generally constructed from cinder block reinforced with rebar and concrete to withstand the high winds and heavy rains during the hurricane season. What is more, hard work and determination in one week's time typically result in enough money to buy only one cinder block for the residential structure.
All of this got me thinking about visionary leadership and goal oriented organizations. Too many leaders today present a "flash in the pan" mentality that seek immediate gratification and quick results. The "gurus" of the leadership scene are all the rage - the idol of the aspiring executive. They build big buildings, and they do it fast; big results are their campaign slogan. People love to follow these charismatic skyscrapers. But, to what end? What is really being accomplished? How can visionary leaders learn from this Jamaican construction concept.
Dedicated Work Ethic
The long-suffering Jamaican has a paramount advantage over the American consumer. The locals work with a different kind of rhythm than what you'll find in most U.S. organizations. Money doesn't appear to be their primary motivation (after all, the average worker brings in about $80 per month). Their focus seems to be much more anchored toward the task at hand and the completion of something greater than themselves-something community impacting. Each concrete block purchased furthers the next generation. This level of fore-empathy (that is feeling for people yet to come) is very foreign in the fast-paced scene of modern business.
Another valuable lesson to be learned is how generations can come together to achieve a common goal. When the first member of the family sets in place the initial cinder block, he knows full well that it maybe his grandson who lays the last. He doesn't intend to finish the project, and accepts the reality that he may never see the final stage. Trust and respect are quintessential to this process - believing that those up and coming are willing and able to finish what has been started. In the same way, vision that begins and ends in one man's lifetime is the lowest form of strategic planning. Vision should transcend the vision caster, soaring beyond where he could ever dream. Let's not forget that the temple in Jerusalem began as a thought in the heart and mind of King David, but didn't see fulfillment until Solomon's reign.
Commitment to Quality Over Quantity
Finally, Jamaican homes are built to last. In contrast to the cheap materials of the popular tract home, these concrete mammoths are intentionally designed to withstand the fiercest of storms. Quick and easy development often leads to quick and easy collapse. A typical house in the United States my take less than a few month to complete, but the finished product is often unsound-unable to stand the test of time.
Too many "experts" in the field have the next "steps to quick success" and "easy ways to make a million." Rarely is anything that comes easy worth having. Our structure should be sound - sound structures take time to build.
Vision is a funny thing; it's more of a living being than an abstract thought. Once it has been cast, it takes on a mind of its own. Some may shape its course, and some may find a way to kill it, but if allowed to take on wings it will truly soar. Let it grow organically; taking its time to ensure quality. Work diligently for something beyond immediate gratification. Above all, when the time is right, entrust its completion to the next generation.