Networking as a Mangement Style

Michael Barone outlines the superiority of networking vs. command and control management:
In mid-2003, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged ahead of other Democrats in fundraising and in the polls, much attention was given to campaign manager Joe Trippi's use of the Internet. He used it to bring volunteers and money into the campaign, and to allow Dean supporters to add their own words, literally, in the campaign blog. Many political supporters were impressed, and rightly so, that the Dean campaign amassed a list of 600,000 e-mail addresses. But few reporters at the time took note of the number of e-mail addresses the Bush campaign had collected: 6 million.

Over two years, the Bush campaign built an organization of 1.4 million active volunteers. This was unprecedented. By way of comparison, the Democratic National Committee has said it enlisted 233,000 volunteers during the 2004 campaign. The Bush volunteers worked not just in heavily Republican neighborhoods -- only 15 percent of Republican voters, Mehlman calculated, live in precincts that vote 65 percent or more Republican. Instead, they went everywhere, especially to rural counties, many of them slow-growing places where most politicians figure there are no more votes to be won, and to the fast-growing exurban areas at the edges of metropolitan areas, where most of the young families moving in tend to be Republican. Just as Sam Walton figured he could make huge profits selling things to people in low-income rural areas and in low-fashion exurbs, so Mehlman calculated that he could wring votes out of areas that most political strategists and political reporters ignored.

To make sure that those volunteers were achieving their goals, Mehlman established metrics -- numerical goals, measured by third parties. Every week, the leaders of the local, state, and national organizations got reports on whether those metrics had been achieved. Productive volunteers were given positive reinforcement, sometimes a call from Mehlman himself. Unproductive volunteers were replaced or persuaded to do more. Mehlman's management was very much like former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's management of the New York City Police Department: Precinct commanders were given goals -- low crime numbers -- which were independently validated. Those who produced were promoted; those who failed lost their jobs. As a result, crime in New York was cut by more than 50 percent -- more than even Giuliani thought was possible.

This is not command-and-control management, but management by networking, by holding people accountable and letting them learn from each other how to do better. And in post-industrial America, it got better results than command-and-control management. In crucial states with the largest volunteer organizations, the numbers speak as loud as Giuliani's -- turnout rose 28 percent from 2000 in fast-growing Florida and 20 percent in slow-growing Ohio.
Those results are nothing to sniff at. Interesting implications for for-profit organizations.

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