Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Strategy

As I contemplated real world events with some of the readings from Week 2, I began to make a connection between Kaplan & Beinhocker’s description of the key elements of building an effective strategy and a rather entertaining podcast I recently listened to from Planet Money. For those of you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, I urge you to listen to “What is Occupy Wall Street” from October 7, 2011.

(Actually, take this moment to download as many Planet Money Podcasts as you can – you won’t regret it)

Moving forward: taking the recommendations of K & B as to what it takes to create an effective strategy, and applying them to the various aspects of Occupy Wall Street dissected in this podcast, we can get a better look at the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Occupy movement. K & B recommend several key elements involved in planning and strategy phase, I chose to look at who should attend, where it should be held, what should be discussed, how the conversation is conducted, and what kind of follow up is needed.

Who should attend?

Kaplan & Beinhocker strongly argue to keep groups of 3 – 10, rightly noting that groups much larger in size become a road block to productivity and effective strategy planning. While OWS seemingly defies this recommendation by seeking complete group consensus on all issues discussed and meets nightly in groups of thousands, they have, at least partially, countered this by identifying a few facilities nightly to direct conversation and policy decisions.

K & B would recommend of those 3-10 that attend, the group be comprised of CEOs and business-unit heads. This, quite frankly, is in direct opposition to well basically everything OWS stands for. This is a group that feels disenfranchised by the “heads of business” and is seeking to have all voices heard.

Where should they be held?

This is a rather interesting strategy posed by K & B when applied to OWS and the Occupy movement at large. K & B directly suggests at the place of business. What this implies is a formal, symbolic location that essentially says to all parties involved, ‘we mean business.’ OWS actually accomplishes this by choosing a symbolic (close to Wall Street, the very institution they are protesting), formal (this is nobody’s home or labor hall) location where all can meet. Their choice of location creates as much of a message as any single home-made cardboard sign decrying corporate greed.

What should be discussed?

K & B strongly urge the topic of discussion be centered around long term strategy. Here, again, OWS tends to defy the recommendation of our trusty strategic planning duo. While there is undoubted discussion over the rather vague platform of the OWS movement, the majority of these nightly meetings are comprised of day to day decisions. How to spend money, how to allocate chores or duties, suggested improvements for the group are the core of the group consensus discussions.

How should the conversation be conducted?

Carrying messages of a conversation in an open space over crowds of thousands presents a real obstacle without bullhorns or amplifiers. To solve this, OWS has developed the human microphone. One person announces “mike check” – bringing the crowd to attention. The group as a collective repeats “mike check” and then continues to repeat every phrase of the speaker until the message is disseminated.

OWS has tackled the overwhelming of challenge of direction free-form public conversation by identifying day to day facilitators as well as empowering the crowd at large with hand signals. These hand signals, allow a feedback mechanism for the crowd to help guide the direction of the conversation. Through the method of hand signals to represent agreement or disagreement with the topic, the group is able to reach consensus about not only topics but decisions to made that affect the group.

What kind of follow-up is needed?

OWS struggles with a serious lack of both defined platform and essentially strategy follow up at this point. The podcast revealed planner within OWS hope to present a detailed platform by Nov 20 but to date there has been little to no concrete policy set forth by the movement, and further they have failed to present any “action items” which could create real strategy and change.

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