“A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” – General George S. Patton
A happy problem, but still a dilemma, for organizations/movements/great leaders, who have just achieved long-sought landmark accomplishments, is: What will you do for an encore?
For championship college and professional sports teams the answer is relatively easy to state, harder to achieve: repeat. The Chicago Blackhawks are tasked with skating the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in seven seasons next spring. The Golden State Warriors are faced with the challenge of winning back-to-back NBA titles, something that has never occurred in the franchise’s mostly desultory history.For the same-sex marriage movement the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, legalizing the right of gay people to marry, was made by a razor-thin 5-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The impact nonetheless was 50-0 as every state is immediately and permanently required to permit the performing of same-sex unions, and to recognize their legality regardless of where or how (e.g., civil, religious) they occur.
The next question, which has already been posed by The New York Times and others, for the successful civil rights campaign, is what comes next? The answer will come in the form of celebrating a great political and society victory (e.g., Pride Parades). Eventually, the cheering will subside and the reality of everyday life and the challenge of American politics returns. Now what? Certainly, there is the continued necessity of protecting hard-earned rights and preventing discrimination, and that makes sense; still the question must be posed:
What comes next?
This is an easy question to pose, much more difficult to answer … and with it, the dilemma that has vexed organizations, movements and great characters throughout the course of history.
“One Small Step for Man; One Giant Leap for Mankind”
Neil Armstrong defied death, and made it to-and-from the moon with far less computing power than can be found in a modern-day smart phone. The first man on the moon had his ticker tape parade upon returning to Mother Earth. His place in the history books is cemented. Undoubtedly, his obits had already been written by the day the Grim Reaper came-a-calling in 2012.
In the face of competing budgetary demands and $18 trillion in record red ink and counting at $3.3 billion per day at the federal level, NASA has become just another agency with a huge public relations problem as it must justify its existence in the absence of any realistic plans to put humans on other planets anytime soon.
The current edition of National Geographic has a cover story about NASA, the New Horizons spacecraft, and hopefully the first ever photos of Pluto, expected on July 14. Checking out the last planet of the solar system is cool, but Armstrong walking on the moon was legendary.
Gone are the days of John F. Kennedy and the Cold War competition and the call to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Yes, we won that technology contest against the Soviet Union, and just 22 years after Armstrong walked on the moon, the USSR collapsed. Russia has hardly bothered us since then.
Not as momentous as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on same-sex marriage or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon was an accomplishment dear to the heat of the author of Almost DailyBrett: The opening of the long closed Japan market to foreign designed-and-manufactured semiconductors, including those originating from Silicon Valley.
In my tenure as the director of communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and later as the director of corporate public relations for LSI Logic, yours truly worked for three years on this contentious issue.
At one time, Japan was in its ascendancy having driven Intel Corporation out of the DRAM (dynamic random access memory) market, a technology Intel actually invented. The U.S. semiconductor industry was being ushered into oblivion in the 1980s by Japan Inc.’s “Business is War” practices, the same fate that fell upon America’s pioneering color-TV industry.
The SIA and its members worked with Washington D.C. to stop predatory pricing or dumping of Japanese chips below cost, and finally pried open the Japanese market in 1996. The opening of Japan and the decades-long recession eased the Japanese competitive threat. The U.S. industry achieved a great victory, but then … you guessed it … the question ensued: What was next for the SIA and its members?
Just like NASA, the SIA has tried one gambit after another to recapture its sense of purpose. The problem is that without an overriding issue (e.g., man on the moon, opening the Japan market), organizations and even individuals (e.g., General Patton when World War II ended) in many cases are never the same again.
The war has been won. The cheering has subsided. The reality of what have you done lately ensues. An organization’s, movement’s, leader’s raison d’etre is no longer certain. A new public relations challenge comes to the forefront with no easy answers.
Some organizations, movements and leaders have successfully met the challenge of victory, while others face internal dissension as they struggle to come up with an answer to precisely what they should do for Act II.