Mead Minutes: Seeking the vision

Good morning from the desert!!  We still are within the cool mornings of the Emirate winter time.  A cup of hot coffee and a warm quilt chase away the morning chills in the flat.  Today I walked across the road and sat overlooking the wadi.  The wadi is the dry riverbed winding its way through Al Ain.  Although I have yet to see any animals but a few birds or other interesting disturbances to the path, I still find it a place to relax.  Across the way are a group of small date farms which do offer a respite from the sun and a scenic place to walk later in the day.  Jana and I enjoy an evening stroll through the trees.

This was a big week as I started seeing patients in Oasis Hospital.  Actually, I often found myself battling the computer and occasionally finding time to talk with and examine patients.  The system, I hope, will make more sense as time passes; then, new computer changes are planned as we enter the new facility.  I will continue to seek advice.  I was able to see a good number of people for my first week and scheduled my first surgery here at Oasis.

As I enter the new and leave behind the old, I am struck once again of my need of a clear vision.  When I first came to Kenya in 1998-99, I did not really have a grasp of what was given as the vision for Kijabe.  As a hospital mission we drifted into many places and opportunities; I never felt all that comfortable.   When I returned, we set a priority to spend time on who we were as a mission in Kenya. 

Who are we?  A great question.  All should ponder and discuss such questions at times.  We can start with the personal level.  Who am I?  We can expand the study to life as a couple, a family, a community, and even a nation.  Organizations of all types need to define who they are as well.  Literature is filled with stories of the rise and fall of civilizations, companies, leaders, and organizations.  As I embark on a new adventure, I need to ponder and discuss the vision — the vision of CURE International, the vision of Oasis Hospital, and the vision of Oasis Orthopedics.  I need to understand how it all fits together and my role within.  I have been given my ‘wait training‘ to ponder this question and seek out wisdom.

Vision.  Vision is about what could and should be.  Vision is not merely a plan.  Plans change as circumstances dictate.  In the Book Good to Great, they talk about vision from many angles.  I like their example of the hedgehog versus the fox approach.  The fox darts rapidly from place to place searching and changing his position and activity frequently.  The hedgehog is focused on a single goal and keeps going toward it.  Our vision needs to be tightly defined and focused.

The first approach should be a question.  Studies, meetings, papers, free and not-so-free advice can expend major amounts of time and finances.  A good question is often the best starting place.  For an organization, you consider, “What is something we can do that no one else can do as well as we can?”   In CURE Kijabe, we could provide orthopedic care for the physically disabled child better than any other facility in the country.  Using this position of excellence, we can fully integrate our spiritual mission within. 

When you decide what vision represents who you are, the contrary position is also true.  We are NOT everything else.  Well intentioned and often politically impressive people arrived at the hospital frequently offering ‘good work and needs’ for the hospital to incorporate.  We learned of the needs for schools for the disabled, glasses, AIDS care, malaria prevention, refugee work, money needed for education of the disabled (or anyone else for that matter), and many, many more.  All the ideas were good ideas, but the ideas were not within the vision of CURE Kijabe.  Once you know who you are the decisions become easier.  The option either fits the vision or it doesn’t.  Or, you delude yourself and do it anyway.  That is topic for another day.

So first you gather together an interested team and work on, “Who are we?”  Vision refinement takes time and needs input from many members. A single person may have a vision, but a dedicated team needs to be involved to carry the vision out.   Following this key principle comes a series of steps running concurrently or traveling separate paths to join together.  Based on this vision, where do we want to be in five years?  Here we add a plan to the vision.  The plans may and usually change; our vision should not.

Do we have the people, especially in leadership roles, in place to follow the vision?  Are there people here who need to seek success elsewhere? (I love this polite way of saying you need to fire a few people.)  Do we need to seek out or develop special talent?  Who is going to hold the leadership accountable to the vision?  Accountability is a very important and necessary element of growth for us all.

Facilities often demand a major time effort.  Are the facilities adequate and well organized to follow the vision and seek the goal?  Do we have too much space?  Does more space need to be created for vision activities?  Outside consultants who understand your vision can make difficult but truthful suggestions independent of personalities and fiefdoms.  

Accountability here raises its head.  There is no reason to first say you trust and desire an outside viewpoint and then, when recommendations are made which challenge you or your thoughts and position, you cast them aside as worthless.  If you as a leader or team don’t agree to follow advice you had declared valuable, don’t seek it out.  Save the money and time.   Studies, like meetings, should have a purpose other than taking up time.

We finally understand the vision; we must share the vision with the staff.  Do they really understand the vision?  Do they buy in?  Do they fit in or should they be placed elsewhere?  Vision is not heard once and retained.  Again and again the vision is shared.  More members join the team working together.  As decisions are made, the vision is brought forth as the standard, our plumb line for decisions.  

Even functioning with the best of intentions, we must stop and reassess our position and activities periodically.  Are we still on course?  Are our activities and efforts in line with the vision?  All of them?  If not, even though the process is painful or embarrassing, changes need to be made.  Going faster down the wrong road or in the wrong direction will not get you closer to your destination.  You will risk losing it all.  Many have.

So here I am in Oasis.  Many astute friends would and have pointed out the obvious: I gave up my vision to care for the disabled child and teach.  True.  I do indeed struggle with the truth in this fact.   I know it was time to leave CURE Kijabe in the talented hands of Kenyan brothers and sisters.   How about another children’s hospital in CURE or elsewhere? I pondered this option in my ‘wait training.’  A good idea, but…

But you see my personal vision is to be within God’s will.  I was called to serve the disabled in Kenya.  I was called to leave.  I learned from my friend, Russ, “If God is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”  I made a commitment to go where called, serve as asked, and trust His leadership.  Although Oasis really does not fit within my giftedness or previous work, I am called here.  Although CURE International provides ESP care for the physically disabled which is not Oasis, I am called here.  Although we can not see the future, Jana and I travel the adventure together in faith.  We travel within our vision of being in His grip.


Where there is no vision the people are lost. – Proverbs 29:18 

No wind is favorable to sailor if he does not know where he is going.  -  John Maxwell

Posted by: Tim Mead

Timothy C. has posted 126 articles.

Dr. Mead served as the medical director of the CURE hospital in Kenya from 1999 until 2011. After that, he headed up orthopedics at CURE Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, UAE. He now is serving with CURE in a medical leadership role, traveling to various CURE hospitals, training younger surgeons in the techniques and tactics to which he has devoted his life. He is a U.S. board certified orthopedic surgeon from Muskegon, Michigan, with specialized training in pediatrics. Prior to joining CURE, Dr. Mead ran an orthopedic practice in western Michigan providing a broad range of surgical reconstructive services including joint replacement and arthroscopic surgery.


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