Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Agony of the Times

This whole debate on the death of the newspaper is very interesting, and well worth some proper investigation. Clay Shirky is, so far, the best critic of the vain attempts of the newspapers to sustain themselves, and the below quote is quite a nice indication of how badly the business model has been broken, and how increasingly archaic the newspaper form will become.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the media business is being turned upside down by our new freedoms and our new roles. We’re not just readers anymore, or listeners or viewers. We’re not customers and we’re certainly not consumers. We’re users. We don’t consume content, we use it, and mostly what we use it for is to support our conversations with one another, because we’re media outlets now too. When I am talking about some event that just happened, whether it’s an earthquake or a basketball game, whether the conversation is in email or Facebook or Twitter, I want to link to what I’m talking about, and I want my friends to be able to read it easily, and to share it with their friends.

Shirky's blog has a few very good posts on the topic. Also well worth checking out is Michael Massing's article for the New York Review of Books, and Chris Anderson has some Ok stuff on it as well, but tending towards the superficial.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Distributed Leadership in the Obama Campaign

Distributed Leadership in the Obama Campaign

The video above is an excellent, if long, discussion on the development of distributed leadership in the Obama election campaign. The speaker, Marshall Ganz, was a New Lefter, involved in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Campaign, the United Farm Workers, and had some sort of training role for Camp Obama. The video is worth a look if you have time, but here are the salient points I pulled from it.

What does leadership mean in times of opportunity?
Taking responsibility to enable others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.

Stephen Jay Gould mentions two conceptions of time:
- Time as cycle (management, routine)
- Time as arrow (leadership, change)
Both of these are necessary. Time as arrow fits a campaign-organisation suitably, but it also needs to include management and routine. However, the fact of change, and unexpected issues, means that the organisation must be able to adapt, this requires leadership, not management.

Obama campaign had three advantages:
- Message of hope - involved people in shared narrative
- Stategic - set specific goals (local caucases) and built local capacity to win these
- Finance - built an expensive base of small contributors

Moving from Disorganisation to Organisation requires leadership

Disorganisation -> Leadership -> Organisation
Passive -> Motivation -> Participating
Divided -> Relationship -> Community
Chaotic -> Structuring -> Collaboration
Reactive -> Strategy -> Initiative
Inactive -> Action -> Outcomes

Motivation is crucial, because it explores the individual's emotional involvement, their affective mapping of the world. Decisions are ultimately made on the basis of emotional involvement.

Camp Obama identified each of these issues
Motivation: People told their stories of why they were there, what their values were
Relationship-Building: People would have one-on-one meetings, bring discussion back to wider group - develop shared interests
Structuring: Develop interdependent leadership teams
- Decide on norms on which decisions and actions are made
- What are the tasks? who can do what?
Strategising: Give people the tools to identify goals and identify necessary tasks.
Action: Give training in very specific tools

Different Models of Organisation

That's my MSPaint rendition of his diagram, which is not dissimilar to a model I previously drew up. The lateral arrows indicate that links are always being established and drawn between the various groups.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

What is a 'Distributed' Workforce?

We consider a workforce "distributed" if it meets any of the following three conditions:

- Individual workers are in different physical locations.
- Most normal communications and interactions, even with colleagues in the next office, are asynchronous; that is, they do not occur simultaneously.
- The individual workers are not all employed by the same organisaion, or are working within distinctively different parts of the same parent organisation. They may have widely different terms of employment.

EEach of these three dimensions impacts workforce management in today's economy, and the interactions among them create new skill requirements, demand new management practices, and raise stress levels for everyone. However, these new conditions also present intriguing opportunities for productivity improvement, organisational effectiveness, and enhanced personal satisfaction.

The above is from a short article, Understanding Distributed Work, by The Work Design Collaborative, and available here.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Eric Fromm The Art of Loving

Just as automatons cannot love each other they cannot love God. The distengration of the love of God has reached the same proportions as the disintegration of the love of man. This fact is in blatant contradiction to the idea that we are witnessing a religious renaissance in this epoch. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we witness (even though there are exceptions) is a regression to an idolatric concept of God, and a transformation of the love of God into a relationship fitting an idolatric character structure. The regression to an idolatric concept of God is easy to see. People are anxious, without principles or faith, they find themselves without an am except the one to move ahead; hence they continue to remain children, to hope for father or mother to come to their help when help is needed.

The Art of Loving, pp93-94