I enjoy Scott Adams’ cartoon, “Dilbert,” which explores the lives of engineers caught in the thrall of a clueless, pointy-haired boss. Since I am in the midst of reifying HSS’s recently approved strategic plan and Adams ran a strip on strategic planning, I thought I would share it with you. Wally, the engineer whose life’s purpose is to avoid work, tells Dilbert that he’s thinking of going into the strategic planning business. “If I understand the job description,” Wally says, “you basically hallucinate about the future and then something different happens.” To which Dilbert replies “You also have to pretend that it’s useful.” The punchline is Wally saying, “Really? That sounds hard.”
We historians know how difficult it is to nail down the past and how even more challenging it is to divine the future. And while it can seem like folly to envision the HSS in 3 to 5 years there is something fundamentally useful about it, and natural selection can serve as a metaphor to explain why. The officers of the HSS are constantly fielding various requests as we make our way through environmental demands. We cannot respond to everything and so to have a plan where we will focus on certain environmental cues will have the desirable effect (we hope) of promoting the Society’s survival. Notice that I did not say such responses will “ensure” survival and neither did I say what the HSS will look like in the future. The strategic plan will simply help us in our struggle for existence.
Please take a few moments to look at the plan, which appears in this Newsletter. As I work on the strategic steps to implement the plan, I am acutely aware of how much we rely on our members (please also see my annual report, which provides a glimpse of those efforts). For HSS to survive, we need members who are willing to help us realize our goals. It hardly needs to be written that without our members, the HSS will become but a footnote in the history of science.
Thank you for your membership.
– Jay Malone