There is opportunity in these challenging times because they are so challenging. The question is – are we ready to take the leap of faith to take a chance?
Take a look at the auto industry. With the turbulence that is hitting this industry, management and the unions are united against a common 'threat'. That type of situation creates opportunity for change that may never come again – the type of opportunity I encountered fifteen years ago.
In the early nineties, the military in Canada was making massive cuts and laying off as much as half of its civilian workforce. In order to keep their jobs, the remaining civilians had to bid for their jobs against private sector firms. That created an alignment between the unions and the management (those in uniforms) like never before. On many bases, both were united in finding a way to keep the jobs that remained.
I was fortunate to work with many of these bases then to reinvent the work – and often the bases – so that it could be done with half the people, and so that they could survive the competitive bids from the private sector.
The point is that prior to that process, you never would have seen management and the union working so closely together with such open communication as I saw on some bases. It would not have happened without the threat of losing the remaining jobs on top of losing so many to start with.
We like to think that we, as human beings, are intelligent and can make the intelligent choices, and yet so often we prove ourselves wrong. Take the labour crisis that's about to hit the industrialized world on the heels of this recession. We've known that this was coming for decades – it's a simple matter of demographics – and yet most organizations still, to this day, don't have effective succession planning in place and are not ready for the retirement of the boomers.
In the next 5 years, you're going to see huge change coming that nobody would go near a year or two ago because we weren't in crisis then.
We don't have to wait for that. Right now this economic crisis has changed the playing field. Unions and management and other stakeholders are working together with a common agenda – people who you never would have pulled together around the same table a little while ago. How can we leverage this to produce lasting change that makes a long-term difference, not just try to survive the next few months?
What do you think?