From Chaos Order Must Rise

A Look Back at Obama 2008 (Part 1)

The migration to the campaign is a testament to the lure and reward of entrepreneurship.  It is the uniquely American phenomenon of leaving everything behind to pursue the unimaginable.  For many, the journey culminated at Obama for America (OFA) headquarters in Chicago, making it a gathering place for idealists, innovators, and pioneers.  While it may be true that the campaign was a magnet for the young who had more to believe in and less to risk, there were some who walked through our doors that had left high-paying jobs at law firms, Wall Street companies, private businesses, and consulting practices.  It was inspiring to witness the number of people who came without the promise of a job that were motivated instead by a higher purpose.

It was an electric time in the campaign; spirited, innovative, and hopeful.  A highly-motivated group of people had been unleashed in this competitive, uninhibited environment.  The mix of pace, purpose, and passion they brought with them was exhilarating but in a workplace without boundaries it was a combination that could also become toxic.  We didn’t have inherent parameters and we didn’t have institutional memory or organizational history that could shape and define the work setting. 

Unlike the traditional business startup where the assimilation of the workforce can be modulated and the culture systematically shaped, campaigns are hastily constructed and grow from these seeds of early turmoil and disarray.  This causes a ‘Wild West’ atmosphere in the beginning.  What we were attempting was the organizational equivalent of creating a village from scratch, where a crowd of people arrived all at once to a place that had no rules, no norms, and no structure.  Chaos was the immediate consequence.

Behind the scripted candidate movements and disciplined messaging that voters see and hear on TV, the unpredictable human response to this complicated and volatile environment affects staff and ultimately, each organization differently.  It is important to get control of the systemic idiosyncrasies so that your candidate realizes all of the advantages that come with a highly-effective workforce and operation.  From chaos, order must rise or the organization will ultimately fail.



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