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Change Management

December 16, 2012 written by Nikolaj Raahauge
OBAMA ELECTION2012 CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Just went over this post at The Slate. Not sure how serious it is as a media channel, but this article caught my attention. It goes through President Obamas ground game during the election campaign and describes how the Romney campaign had already ordered the fireworks for the victory celebration, but had their numbers wrong.

In summary, they underestimated, the article claims, the vote turnout of African-american and Latin-american voters while targeting independent voters, who they believed would be required for Obama to win.

“We did everything we set out to do, says a top strategist about the Ohio effort. We just didn’t expect the African-American vote to be so high.African-American participation in Ohio jumped from 11 percent of the electorate to 15 percent between the 2008 and 2012 elections. We could never see that coming.”

One of the weapons of the Obama campaign was the amount of offices in major states, keeping alive the personal relationship between the voters and the campaign; as the good old Covey states, without involvement, there can be no commitment.

Getting an organization up and running, that can actually address the issues that matters most to individual groups, at a personal and group level (e.g. for young people, student loans and same-sex marriage, for Hispanics, deportation of children of illegal immigrants) is of the utmost importance if you want to connect with people.

Managing change

This relates in many ways to stakeholder engagement on even smaller scales than an American presidential election, e.g. when implementing change initiatives in organizations through programmes or projects. If management does not communicate at a personal level to the stakeholders, on the issues that matter the most for them about the change, even though ‘the math’ has been done and add up, the change initiative will be going through rough times.

And this is something that I see fail often in organizations:

  • the expectation, that everybody will, implicitly, understand the nature and vision of the change (because we communicated it and this is the right thing to do, certainly everybody understands this!)
  • the necessity of accepting it, so we can all just get through it easily

This can provide a kind of logical perspective or viewpoint, that fails to recognize the potential competing commitments that challenge people affected by change initiatives. And that kind of inconsistency can cause many complications in organizations trying to implement change, from affected staff being stressed, some even, to a degree of having to tap out of the organization for a while on sick leave, to other employees actively refusing to work with the change or outright working against the change.

Of course, change must be lead and it cannot be a democratic process where everything is up for a vote. Some will only see negative benefits of the change (and maybe rightfully so), others will slowly start to see the benefits while some are all-in from the get-go and cannot wait for the change. But the point proven by the Obama campaign is, that from president to voter, from management to employee, we have to be involved to be committed, for the numbers to be reliable.

Repaid in kind

Being from Denmark I’m used to a very large state and public sector. It is there to provide all residents in Denmark with public service and a health care that is non-differential to your social status, income or employer affiliation. So, we’re used to the benefits that I feel many americans, especially from the middle class and down have fought for and gained an aspect of, through the first four yeas of the Obama presidency.

In that light, it’s amazing to see that exactly those groups seems to have pulled through for Obama in the election; in the end, it is what politicians and leader are there for, to provide citizens or employees with a better tomorrow.