Walk the Talk

I have been revisiting some of my earlier work on strategy.  This piece from nine years ago is about implementation of it and making it stronger with a transparent organization.  While this is about organizng, the principles are the same in a company – where the organizing principle is the job.

Organizations that thrive in a changing world all have one thing in common – a strong strategic focus.  They know their objectives and strategy very well and communicate them effectively.  What is less obvious is that a good strategic plan comes from individual people.  It takes a lot of skill and a little planning to work it up into a real plan, but there is never any substitute for the old “walk and talk” – getting to know the clients, customers, employees, citizens, or any other way you want to define the people of an operation.

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Walk & Talk

As the Tenth Anniversary of Barataria approaches, we will be featuring posts from long ago which contain themes which carry through to today.  Organizing in a changing world is probably the most critical concept all around.  The standard position of this blog is that everything good comes at a “strong half-step back” – far enough away to have some perspective but close enough to keep your hands dirty.  This is an example of that in practice from 2010.

Organizations that thrive in a changing world all have one thing in common – a strong strategic focus.  They know their objectives and strategy very well and communicate them effectively.  What is less obvious is that a good strategic plan comes from individual people.  It takes a lot of skill and a little planning to work it up into a real plan, but there is never any substitute for the old “walk and talk” – getting to know the clients, customers, employees, citizens, or any other way you want to define the people of an operation.

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Redefining Work

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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Union, Yes! (maybe)

The workers at the plant are voting on whether or not to join a union. The vote is controversial, setting the company and local politicians at odds with each other in a bitter struggle playing out in the press and even on billboards around town. If you think you’ve seen this story before, hold on a moment.

In Chattanooga Tennessee the workers are finishing up voting to possibly join the United Auto Workers (UAW) today. Volkswagen, the owner of the plant, has no official position on the vote but were the ones who initiated the process last October. The opposition comes from local officials who are terrified of unions coming in. They’ve made it clear that if the UAW successfully organizes the plant they will cut off all future tax breaks and generally make life difficult for VW. Welcome to a new world of global companies meeting the strange cultural war of the USA in 2014.

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The Good Fight Wins

Two years ago, nearly to the day, a curtain of gloom hung over progressives in Minnesota.  A constitutional amendment was passed and sent on to the voters to enshrine in the state constitution that marriage was “between one man and one woman”.  It was largely a cynical play to demonize homosexuals and get people out to the polls to vote Republican.  The left was shocked and demoralized.

Today, Governor Dayton signed the bill which creates Marriage Equity in Minnesota, or legalizes gay marriage if you insist.  It’s a remarkable achievement for this state, the 12th in the US to do so, but the two year path from despair to elation is a fantastic story too intricate to tell here.  But one thing can certainly be said of this story:

It was one of the biggest political goofs in history – and if we learn from it this could be a turning point.

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