The Editor Notes

“Under construction” assumes multiple meanings when one is immersed in a project. Construction, whether of an organization or, as in my home case, a building, leads to reviewing matters such as materials and foundation, functions and design.

However, what is commanding attention or exciting to those leading a construction project may be confusing or annoying to others. Customers in a store that is being remodeled, or website visitors who are told that what they seek is not yet available, may most want to know when the construction will be over. Project leaders are especially subject to scrutiny when the enterprise has multiple stakeholders.

Our national food cooperative organization also is undergoing construction, and as with retail co-op remodeling there is a parallel need to maintain cohesion while preparing for redesigned services. Within the organization, roles and responsibilities change. Keeping everyone focused and on board can be very difficult. Managers and directors in a regionally based system of cooperative associations are now the owners and customers who are being asked to accept disruption and change, on the strength of anticipated national improvements in design and services. (Your editor comments from the modest comfort of a contract good through next year.)

Reconstructing and managing the internal dynamics among stakeholders, often among the most complex challenges for project leaders, requires ongoing negotiation and consent. But additionally these dynamics point to the ongoing construction of social agreements. Cooperation and collaboration—likewise hegemony and dominance —are social constructs, possessing greater or lesser effectiveness or potency according to how widely they are recognized and in particular how they are practiced or realized.

That’s not news‚ just a good faith reminder. During construction challenges, positions and actions taken derive from assumptions about fairness vs. unfairness, about cooperation vs. self-protection, and about what we can expect from others. Assumptions as well as our actions are significant determinants of what others actually do. (“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”)

Of course, one’s attitude and actions, however thoughtful, do not establish social constructs but contribute to them. The world is always under construction—even for directors and managers. Thus, the power of an organization or movement grows not only from its vision and unity but also from its flexibility.

See other articles from this issue: #112 May - June - 2004