Friday, September 14, 2007

Are you a D.I.Y. or Campaign by Committee Candidate?

As we move deeper into the 2008 election cycle and campaigns at all levels gear up, we see a process issue debated within campaigns about how to properly manage a political campaign.

There are essentially two models of operating a campaign, the "strong leader" and the "Campaign by Committee." The complex nature of modern campaigns and the finite period of time between inception and Election Day require campaigns at every level to have extraordinarily good management.

When considering running for elected office, potential candidates should understand that a "campaign" is an entity, not an activity. Professionals who work campaigns at ground level typically describe the process of building a campaign as forming a large business over night; and, describe the feeling in the office the day after the election as walking into a ghost town.

There is an old axiom in the political world: "campaigns by committee lose." Campaigns by Committee are set to fail. They fail because decisions aren’t made quickly and differing parts of the "committee" debate and micro-manage infinitesimally small details of the race such as color of signs, what picture to use, the content of press releases, what events the candidate should attend, taking a position on an issues, etc. These types of campaign committees are absent a leader, other than the candidate, who has the command and authority to end the decision process and make final judgments.

This committee system wastes time in the decision making process. The opportunity cost of the decision paralysis (that inevitably comes from the committee process as the stress of the campaign process sets in) is where the death of campaigns by committee arrive. The cost of campaign time and resources in debating decisions is opportunity and opportunity's benefits forgone, like fund raising, contacting voters, and moving the campaign forward. Time and money are the most valuable resources a campaign has; they need to be spent wisely. If a campaign falls behind in money, it can possibly surge back, but time can never be recovered.

Campaigns at all levels need a dedicated and experienced decision maker who can execute decisions with total authority and in a timely manner. The decision maker or "strong leader" cannot be the candidate. A candidate can't do everything in a campaign; in fact, a candidate should only focus on meeting voters, raising funds and recruiting volunteers.

Campaigns at every level need a campaign manager. The campaign manager (CM) is the overall coordinator of the race and should have directive control over all operations and strategic decisions of the campaign. The campaign manager is the chief administrator of the campaign and the candidate. A campaign needs someone who can see the forest for the trees and make the trains run on time, with the ability to direct the candidate's schedule and coordinate with campaign staff and consultants to oversee the successful implementation of all aspects of the campaign's operations and strategy.

Here are some of the basic responsibilities of a campaign manger:

  • The campaign manager should have control over the campaign's finances (i.e. nothing gets spent without CM approval).
  • The CM must have directive control over all staff and consultants and all staff / consultants ultimately report and are accountable to the CM.
  • The CM must have the authority to direct the candidate’s activities and schedule (with candidate input).
  • The CM should be the final decision maker on all operational and strategic decisions (with input from staff, consultants & candidate) and he/she must have the authority to resolve internal disputes and make decisions between differing / conflicting recommendations to the campaign.
The CM reports to the candidate, but the candidate must understand that the manager is the person who is in charge of the day to day operations of the campaign.

To review, a candidate can't and shouldn't try to do it all. No matter how competent the candidate is, the candidate's time is best spent serving the functions of a candidate. A campaign can't be a democracy or even a republic; it needs to be run by be strong leader. Campaigns simply don't have enough time to debate the pros and cons of every decision. A campaign needs an authority figure, a campaign manager with the experience to manage the complex and high stress organization that is modern political campaigns and someone with the authority to execute timely decisions. These are the components of a winning campaign structure.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

Very good post! I've just come upon your blog and I like it very much. Dave is a great consultant.