Saturday, November 08, 2008

Lesson 4: Turn early lessons into big successes

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Sarah Palin might not be too impressed with Obama's days as a community organizer, but he built that modest beginning -- putting together coalitions of voters across Chicago -- into the current grass-roots organization that's unlike anything our electoral process has ever seen. It's a classic example of applying a lesson learned on a small scale to the biggest challenge of a lifetime.

Clearly, he knows how to manage groups. By the time your outfit has its own plane, it'd better have a solid pilot.

"I'm part of an organization," he says, "and one of the things I really try to push in the organization is to make sure that everybody is focused on the two or three things that are really going to be game changers. I ask them to design my schedule in a way that focuses not just on what's coming at us, but on being active instead of reactive. I think we've been pretty successful. I don't spend a lot of time returning phone calls or Emails. If somebody needs something, most of the time there's somebody else who can handle it. Eliminating TV has been helpful." Wait, a confession: "I'm still a ****er for SportsCenter," he notes.

The goal of his organization, he says, is to clear time for job Number 1: "The most difficult thing is to carve out time to think, which is probably the most important time for somebody who's trying to shift an organization, or in this case, the country, as opposed to doing the same things that have been done before. And I find that time slips away."