Crisis du Jour

What’s wearing the leader, now as in 2019, is the sound of silence. Two things can be relied on to rally even a moderately divided party: power and a crisis.

If O’Toole had won the election he’d have actual cabinet jobs to hand out, a throne speech to write, a new course in government to steer. It’s not easy and it’s not without its own peril, but power at least brings a sense of momentum.

Crisis, and by this I mean a crisis out in the real world, clarifies stakes. It encourages people to set aside petty differences to meet the needs of the moment. But in the absence of a crisis, or indeed much of anything else, a party is left alone with the voices in its head.

Paul Wells, Macleans (emphasis and paragraph breaks added)

I haven’t worked in politics but I have worked in the academic, not-for-profit, and government sectors, albeit that last one as a contracted worker. And I’ve worked in and around various service businesses: retail, financial, communication, administrative, management, engineering, and non-engineering technical. My sector preference? Business, hands down.

Don’t get me wrong: Business isn’t perfect. At the individual level, business people are people. At the organizational level, businesses often seem better at institutionalizing our human failings (greed, indifference, rigidity) than our good points (balance, compassion, flexibility). But in my experience, business has one advantage over those other organization types: If you lose sight of your paying customers for too long, you will no longer be in business. The marketplace encourages an outward focus.

Don’t get me wrong: Not completely. At the individual level, business people can be overly focused on themselves (career aspirations, colleague complications). At the organizational level, businesses often ignore, sometimes foster, and occasionally even institutionalize unhealthy resentment across units. And yet, most days bring something that must be done to meet an external demand. In one company I was in, a self-appointed wag used to arrive a bit late every morning so he could ask,

What’s the crisis du jour?

There usually was one.

More broadly, in the proposal work I did for most of my career, the existence of non-negotiable hard deadlines had a way of clarifying the mind.

Crisis, and by this I mean a crisis out in the real world, clarifies stakes.

Does this guy drive me crazy? Do I, him? Do I wish that guy would stop interrupting me? Patronizing me? Delaying me? Giving me badly written text and then arguing about every change? Suck it up, buttercup. Find a way through it. This thing is due next week.

[Crisis] encourages people to set aside petty differences
to meet the needs of the moment.

Yes. What a relief it is to set aside our petty differences — our work idiosyncrasies, our mutually incompatible preferences in marketing communication — even for a little while. What a relief to just focus on getting a decent and complete document out the door, on time. And what a relief to set aside my own personal capacity for pettiness.

As the natural disaster unfolded in BC this past week, I saw a Conservative MP praise a Liberal Minister, which would normally be a sign of an impending apocalypse. He set aside petty differences to meet the needs of the moment.

But in the absence of a crisis, or indeed much of anything else,
a party is left alone with the voices in its head.

I shouldn’t create crises through sins of commission or omission just so I can rise to the occasion. And I shouldn’t assume that other sectors can’t provide the same mission focus that I often found in business: They clearly can, for lots of folks.

But the bottom line is this: For me, it’s better if the institutions I’m part of provide enough outward focus, enough external noise, to quiet those voices in my head.

 

This entry was posted in Thinking Broadly and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crisis du Jour

  1. I don’t need to delve into a business to find a “crisis du jour.” We grow them at home. That bit about the voices struck me yesterday when my sweet Love tripped on the second-to-the-last step while descending the kitchen stairs and snapped his right quads tendon in the standing fall — causing Dan to spring into left-brain consciousness and some seriously needed helpfulness. He stopped his self-talk and remained with his dad until the ambulance arrived. Maybe boredom is literally driving him crazy.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Oh dear. That’s a nasty way to provoke Dan’s helpful-ness. I hope Dick is OK or on his way there. As for boredom, yeah, I think any state that allows us to brood on our own selves for extended periods is not healthy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.