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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Vision Thing

If there's one thing I see DECs doing more than anything else its short-term thinking. We're getting better at it for sure, but its still a never ending obstacle I see DECs and progressive organizations alike trying to overcome.

How do you know whether or not your DEC is suffering from short-term thinking? Here are a few signs:

Gatherings Don't Seem to Have Any Purpose: Ever go to a meeting, not just a DEC meeting but any meeting and all people do is really just announce things to everyone else? Are people really just talking to hear themselves talk? Do your meetings accomplish anything? If not, your DEC or organization is suffering from a lack of long-term focus or vision.

Everyone Is Doing Their Own Thing: If your DEC's activists are all out doing what they want to do, disconnected from any larger plan or purpose, that's a problem. Every DEC suffers this in some form or another. The term "herding cats" applies well to DECs. So the question is to what degree? If its a few folks - don't beat yourself up. However, if entire committees seem to be disconnected, it maybe time for some strategic planning to get everyone on the same page.

There's Been No Strategic Planning: If you haven't gotten all of your committee chairpersons and officers to discuss where the party should be going, its something you really should try and do.

The bottom line here is that DECs have to have a long-term focus and can't become too distracted by short-term events (special elections, personal feuds, the loss of a club, or the resignation of a precinct captain, etc...), otherwise the organization could lose its rudder and some of the symptoms I described above could occur.

So how do DECs attempt to keep their long-term focus?

Strategic Planning: There should be a strategic planning meeting of the DEC's officers and committee chairpersons every 6 months. The first meeting of a new DEC administration is probably the most important strategic planning meeting, as it will set the course of the organization for the next 2+ years. The strategic planning meetings in between that first meeting and Election Day are there to measure progress and tweak things along the way. Or, if things aren't working well at all, to start from scratch.

Bold, Persistent Experimentation:
To many of our readers from the '60s and 70s, I'm not referring to giving DEC members different types of drugs :) I'm referring here to what FDR said in the early 1930s:

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

In other words, keep your DEC and its clubs on their toes by consistently trying new ideas in a push towards the vision laid out at your initial strategic planning meeting.

Keep Reminding Them:
It's oh so easy for any member of a DEC (yours truly included) to get wrapped up or swept up by a short-term distraction and quickly forget long-term goals. At every possible instance, remind everyone of the long-term goal: victory in 2008. Anything that really doesn't get us there probably isn't worth the time.


tally said...

What were the strategic goals laid out by your father when he took over the Marion County DEC? How are these working?

Your discussions are always improved when you include specific examples from your own experience.

You are truly amazing Ray.

Ray Seaman said...

In its most basic form, the vision is as follows: "focus on building the party to score strategic victories in 2008. By 2010, have a well-organized party in all key areas of the county and win an across the board victory."

All that we do is focused around that core vision: Democratic victory.

Thanks for your support Tally, as always.