Longevity

Over the weekend i had an experience that made me think about longevity of organizations.  I attended a parade and ceremony to mark the 199th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.
 
I have been involved with several 100-year organizations during my time on the planet.
 
I worked for Pacific Bell not too long after the divestiture of AT&T.  The people there felt like they were pare of a longstanding institution, but the underpinnings had crumbled significantly. The IT department was only 3,000 people, down from 5,000.  The employment for life compact had been broken.  Ceompetition was coming in, and demands from customers were rising.  It was interesting to have a small inside view of a large old enterprise going through such a change of life.
 
Similarly, I joined IBM on the coattails of a life change.  IBM executives talk about a near death experience for the company in the wake of major industry changes or architectures, products, heightened competition and customer expectations.  Again, guarantees were being jettisoned, and people were overcoming the shock of these changes that rocked the enterprise.
 
Other institutions I have experienced have been rather long-lived.  The church of my youth was a pretty recent denomination, though it had roots back into Luther's Reformation.  It was rocked by some institutional change that I'll document elsewhere. I started my working career with the City of Palo Alto, which had a long history as a municipal entrprise.  I attended UCSC, an infant of a campus, but under the auspices of the somewhat venerable University of California system.
 
In this case the longevity seems to be based on some common interests and values, reinforced through activities and a certain style of discourse. It was interesting to see how little some of this has changed over the decades since I was active in the group. The world has changed, and some of the changes have perturbed the organization.  Issues like sexual orientation and church and state have rippled through, but there was no manifestation of any discord -- no counter demonstrations to mar the 7,000 marchers from Raley Field to the Caliornia State Capitol and back.
 
It was interesting to be a representative from the past -- a throwback to earlier version of the organization.  I was not the oldest Eagle there (I was invited because once an Eagle Scout always an Eagle Scout, apparently).  My uniform shirt was cut from cloth not used in the uniforms of today.  The 50th anniversary patch on my shirt would have given away my seniority, but the shirt itself stood out and drew some kind-hearted attention.  That a 62-year-old man still fit comfortably into apparel from the end of high school was cause for pleasure enough for me!
 
I'm sure I will hear from BSA again.  As an adult, with no current responsibility, and demonstrated interest (by showing up for the event) I am a perfect target to solicit for voluntarism.  Some small survival factor is the organizational memory that can reach back 40 years to find some membership energy.  Pretty impressive, though I doubet it will result in anything on my side.  The event this weekend reminded me of how much the Scouts comprise a ceremonial organization.  Since I have a low tolerance for ceremony, it reminds me of why I drifted away from the organization (along with conflicts of college, and the fact that I had daughters not sons in a man-to-boy oriented lineage).