Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Are You a Viking or a Farmer? Legendary Norsemen Didn't Conquer the World by Doing Things the Way They Had Always Been Done. nor Should Parks and Recreation Administrators

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Are You a Viking or a Farmer? Legendary Norsemen Didn't Conquer the World by Doing Things the Way They Had Always Been Done. nor Should Parks and Recreation Administrators

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Park and Recreation is undergoing great change. With state and local government budgets in great distress, a business as usual attitude is not a strategy for success. With many economists predicting that an end to the current recession will not come until sometime in 2013, what will parks and recreation look like at that point? Almost certainly, the agencies that survive and thrive will be those that chart new areas. These will be agencies with lean overhead and an entrepreneurial spirit. Agencies that show their value to the community in new and exciting ways and are less dependent on traditional sources of tax revenues will succeed. They will be Viking agencies.

From the late 8th into the 12th century, Vikings from Scandinavia were a dominant force in the world in and around Europe. They conquered vast areas and promoted trade. In the east, they set up the nation of Russia, and in the west they were the first Europeans to explore North America. Then, over time, they stopped exploring to become farmers, and the age of Vikings came to an end.

Most larger park agencies went through a Viking era, a period of time when leaders with foresight and a cando attitude created opportunities which resulted in rapidly expanding lands and operations. Over time, any organization can become so focused on managing what they have that they forget to grow.

Management is much like farming. You have a set of operations, and you tend to those like a farmer tending his fields. There is a great tendency to do the same thing every year. It seems to work and it becomes "how we always do things." There is nothing wrong with being a competent manager or farmer, so long as external forces do not change too rapidly. But, when the way things have been done no longer addresses the changing circumstances, it is time to take to the "long boats" again.

While the farmer is focused on the management of a certain set of fields, the Viking is looking to the horizon for new opportunities. Successful Vikings were willing to take strategic risks and stretch themselves and their group to find the new opportunities. While they were seeking these new opportunities, they were not alone. Leif Ericson did not row to Newfoundland by himself; rather, he had a team of Vikings willing to try new things and take risks together for a shared reward. …

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