“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time” – Leonard Bernstein
I have always been a theater fan and spent 5 years moonlighting as a stage manager when I first moved to Baltimore. The theater world is very similar to the architectural world. You work hard to plan every step but, you never seem to have enough time to pull everything together, especially if something does not go according to plan. However, that pressure of time tends to force more creative ideas. I remember in one production, there were not enough people on stage to move a set piece during a scene. The cast and director tried to think of different ways to do it; make the set piece smaller? Not enough time. Just have a stage hand come out dressed in black to help move it? Interrupted the flow. Nothing felt right. Eventually the Director looked at me; they included me as a costumed character in the background which provided the extra set of hands necessary to do the move and we didn’t have to alter the set piece. “Just blend in,” said the Director. I improvised and everything worked out. Problem solved!
This year we have done a lot of improvisation. Between planning the lecture series from scratch in just three and a half months, to pivoting retreat planning last minute, coupled with multiple staff and board transitions, things haven’t gone as originally planned. But, so far, it has all worked out and resulted in creative problem solving.
We just had our yearly committee retreat with our board, committee chairs and BAF. We gathered at The Center, talked about our strategic goals, and started making plans for next year. In many ways it felt like a dress rehearsal. We talked through the steps we plan to integrate into the 2024 committee plans, mainly focusing on ways to make our programs and events more inclusive. We simplified the plan form to make it easy for committees to fill out with their members and for the board and staff to review. We also asked for plans to be submitted earlier than ever before – July 31. We are hoping that, by having the plans simplified and established early, we can be ahead of the game when planning for budgets and staff commitments in 2024. By planning now, we can better prepare for the coming year and make it even stronger. Of course, things may not always go as planned, but establishing an outline for the coming year will help guide our team.
The committee plans created over the next two months will be the script, but some improvisation will always be necessary to handle those last minute surprises. Even with a comprehensive plan, no amount of time or planning will cover every eventuality. But we should not be afraid of a little improvisation, as improvised solutions can be the most memorable.
Martina Reilly, AIA LEED AP BD+C
2023 AIA Baltimore President