Warning: speculative thought piece ahead. In a workshop a while back, in the course of the discussion, I heard myself declare: “if you’re lobbying, it’s too late.” The essence of the story is that I was working with a leadership team to explore potential responses to strategic issues we had identified. I was struck by the appearance – and re-appearance – of the potential response that “we can lobby that” or something along those lines. I would not describe myself as particularly against lobbying – I have no dog in that fight, but if you asked me, I’d say it’s probably something I’d like to see less of. But for many clients, including this one, they often are not involved enough in shaping policy issues that affect them. So getting more involved is generally a good thing — and is at least related to lobbying. So, just to make clear I’m not a knee-jerk anti-lobbyist/anti-gov’t/anti-Washington type of person.
But my intuition was that something felt “wrong,” during that discussion and I’ve learned to pay attention to my intuitions that arise during these workshops. Even if I eventually dismiss them, I at least listen first.
As we’re used to in this blog, we often turn to the values work in ConsumerShift for an explanation. What caused me to blurt out “if you’re lobbying, it’s too late.” (A rather classic case of speaking first and thinking later). Thinking of what we’ve learned from the emergence of postmodern and integral values, lobbying, in general, seems out of synch with them. If we look at lobbying in relation to the five core changes identified in ConsumerShift.:
- Authenticity. People are tired of being managed and manipulated and hunger for the straight story, warts and all. Lobbying is seen as a high art form of “spin-doctoring.”
- Connection. People want to be more involved with those they live and do business with. Lobbying is perceived as a behind-closed doors activity.
- Anticonsumerism. A disenchantment with consumerism has been gaining momentum. The rapid pace of modern life has taken its toll on lifestyles and relationships. Lobbying is perceived as being all about money.
- Self-expression. People want to express their views, their values, their purpose, and their creativity. Lobbying may be seen as serving the interests of the corporation rather than “the people.”
- Enoughness. People feel their lives are getting out of control, and they want to take back that control and set limits. Lobbying may be perceived as being an example of politics and influence-peddling run amok
The essence of the problem I intuited is that it seemed, in this case at least, to suggest that lobbying could be employed when the “case” with the public had been lost, so let’s turn to the lobbyists for help. Thus, it’s “too late.”
The perception of lobbying may be worse than the reality. My sense, now with the benefit of reflection, is that it is out of step with emerging values shifts, and for organizations who see it as their salvation or at least a key strategic option, it is worth some consideration as to how, or whether, it fits in the tool kit.