Vision and Discernment

“The contract agreement the United Auto Workers struck with General Motors Corp. after a two-day strike last month freezes union members' base pay for four years. It shifts $51 billion in health-care obligations for retirees from GM to a union-run trust fund. And it pays new UAW workers lower wages for the same work as veterans.

“Yet, to Dave Green, a local union leader at GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant, this deal for lower pay and higher risk is ‘awesome.’ It's ‘huge.’ It ‘sells itself.’ …

“That willingness to exchange ever-expanding wages and benefits for job security is the culmination of a two-year effort by Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW's president, to set realistic expectations for members on a new contract amid mounting financial woes at Detroit's Big Three auto makers.

“In the summer of 2005, as GM was spiraling toward a $10.6 billion loss, former UAW President Doug Fraser warned Mr. Gettelfinger and other leaders in a speech at a union celebration that the problems facing unionized U.S. auto makers were deep-seated and not the result of cyclical forces soon to change…

“Mr. Gettelfinger seized on the idea, according to people familiar with the events, and made it a theme of his effort to move the UAW's 180,000 members toward agreements that would allow auto makers to be more competitive with foreign rivals…

“The problems at Detroit's auto makers were worse than the union had ever seen, Mr. Gettelfinger said. The Big Three ‘faced a structural change, not a cyclical one ... which could require far-sighted solutions by our membership,’ he said, echoing Mr. Fraser's words.

“The terms ‘structural change’ and ‘far-sighted solutions’ were picked up by UAW local leaders in the run up to this year's contract talks.”

(“How Less Pay, More Risk 'Sells Itself'; Job-Security Promises Have Auto-Workers Union Poised To Ratify GM Deal Today.” Mike Spector in Lordstown, Ohio, and Jeffrey McCracken and John D. Stoll in Detroit. Wall Street Journal: October 10, 2007. pg. B.1)

A GENERATION is often required to pass before new paradigms are fully adopted -- true in technology, true in society, true in our institutions. The strategic leader helps us detect discontinuities ("Is this shift structural or is it cyclical?") by disrupting our thinking.

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