From Phil Wolff comes this spectacular assessment of what it takes for volunteer groups to be effective in political campaigns:
I’ve been rationalizing the 30-50 hours a week of grassroots campaigning I’ve been investing in the local Kerry campaign since last summer. Changing the world is great, and we’re doing that. My takeaway is what I learn from it, how the work itself changes me. Here are a few lessons learned. [a klog apart]
This is required reading for anyone looking to run a campaign, get involved at a senior level, or even just volunteer.
There are some interesting threads to tie together here: most importantly is that of the shift from centralized, structured organizations to flexible, decentralized organizations. Ray Ozzie wrote about the future of work a couple weeks back, and in it he noted that businesses are transitioning from “centralized structures toward networked, decentralized organizational relationships.”
Clearly one aspect of the Dean campaign that worked well was its ability to embrace the bottom-up mentality. (For the record: when I say “worked”, I’m speaking in terms of the goal of that organization: fund-raising. By any objective measure, Dean’s bottom-up model worked wonders.)
Nearly every call I’ve been on while at Socialtext has involved a company that is struggling with this transition. Executives who’ve been at the helm for a while grew up understanding the command and control mentality. Those of us who are just coming into middle-age understand “peer to peer” as not just a technology but an organizational model. This is at the heart of what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas wrote about in Geeks and Geezers. (I wrote more about Geeks and Geezers last year here.)
Organizations that find themselves in a centralized mode will survive and thrive if they can embrace what Bennis and Thomas refer to as “adaptive capacity.” Leaders and their organizations who want to learn, are curious, and who empower those in the trenches will succeed. This is as true of businesses as it is of campaigns. To that end, Phil’s observations about his involvement at East Bay for Kerry are appropriate regardless of what business you’re in.