If you’re on the internet today you’ll have trouble avoiding online protests against two copyright infringement bills trying to pass through Congress. I’ve been reading up on this for the past few months as momentum has been building from online giants like Facebook, Wikipedia and Google strongly opposing the bills (the bills are supported by the likes of the MPAA and Warner Bros). Why all the hubbub? In short, it’s a poorly written bill with good intentions. It’s meant to curb digital piracy in foreign countries, but it would effectively force a “search engine” to police or censor it. You can read the article in today’s New York Times. I’m generally fairly passive when it comes to politics, but bills trying to govern the internet make me uneasy. There are so many bureaucratic nightmares that begin as dreamy fairy tales… good intentions that beget bad repercussions.
My takeaway is a secondhand leadership lesson I’ve learned over the years. Any decision or policy being considered by leadership in an organization should consult the individuals or groups it will affect. This sounds elementary, but I’ve been involved in enough organizations (education, business, non-profit, and the church) to know that top-down, unilateral, uninformed decisions negatively affecting the end user are made all the time.
Take for example a business meeting where a new web platform was being introduced to support staff to manage event registration. The web company’s representative happened to be a friend of a friend in management and they were ready to move forward. The meeting was less about consulting support staff and more about informing them of the change. All departments would be expected to utilize the web platform and pay their share of the fees. Support staff raised many concerns since this particular platform would be a burden of time on a department’s dime… similar to paying someone to give you a headache. Management’s response was “deal with it.” The platform failed in initial testing.
Why the blackout today? Congress neglected to include the end users (Google, Wikipedia, Facebook) in the conversation. Is it any wonder why Congress has a 13% approval rating?
Are you a leader facing a decision for an organization? Include the end user (support team, employees, volunteers, etc.) in the conversation. As Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church, has said, “Don’t have policies, have conversations.” It may be more work than just unilaterally making a decision, but in the end you will instill confidence in your leadership and inspire others to lead.