Another monumental cock-up

heathrow276

 

On Thursday week we had the first Executive Meeting of the local Labour Party since early July. We take a break over the summer. The main item on the agenda was, of course, our role in managing the huge influx of new members, registered supporters, and affiliated supporters. Taken together these categories are twice as many as the number of members we had at the time of the May general election. We have sent them all an e-mail welcoming them to our meetings, including our AGM in October. Someone at the Executive raised the question of what voting rights these new affiliates and registered supports would have at this meeting.   This is not a trivial point as we will elect officers and we possess some significant assets in the form of a property.

Our surmise is that only members will be able to vote and whoever is chairing the meeting will have to make this clear at an early stage. However, the plain fact is that we don’t know; we have been given no worthwhile advice on how to deal with these and other related issues. What, for example, do we do if one of the new registered supporters puts their hand into their pocket, pulls out £20, and asks to upgrade to full membership? It is no good ringing up national or regional offices because they won’t know either. My guess is that all the attention and emphasis at present is on avoiding costly and embarrassing legal challenges.

I hope someone is able to write a case study on this shambles. From my experience in management education and I know that almost always the case studies that are written up are about successes and what we can learn from them. A few cases about failures would help.

As many will remember March 2008 witnessed a high profile cock-up. Terminal 5 at Heathrow opened in chaos and hundreds of passengers were forced to sleep on the floor after waiting for their luggage for up to six hours. In fairness British Airways apologised, put up their hands and admitted that a series of blunders had been made including inadequate parking, a shortage of security staff, and computer failure. Resignations followed.

Different lessons should be drawn from the Labour Party’s cock-up. It is a voluntary organisation and communication with the volunteers on the ground should have been recognised as critical and planned from the start. As a former training manager I know that, in a change management process, the role of training is essential – indeed it is one opportunity for the training team to gain credibility. Judging by their e-mails, the ‘Training, development and community organising’ team at Labour Party Headquarters have not been involved and are pursuing a parallel agenda that is irrelevant at this critical time. For example, the most recent set of webinars on offer include: Getting the most out of Conference and Planning your print for next year. I feel some professional sympathy with them.

All the attention will be on the political consequences of the new procedures. I do hope someone who matters will pick up on the woeful management of the process.

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