Over the past month, the most remarkable scene has been playing out in my neck of the woods. Protestors are out on the streets, complete with work stoppages, boycotts, and press moments, seeming to emerge out of nowhere. There were no nonprofits involved in any of this that I could see.
The issue was the leadership of a local grocery chain, Market Basket. The CEO had been ousted late last month as the result of a family feud, and it could have ended there—but apparently, he had, 1. treated his workers very fairly, providing good salaries and benefits, resulting in some long-term, dedicated employees, and 2. treated customers very fairly, providing good product at low prices. In other words, he did not squeeze every last drop of blood from his stakeholders. Apparently, these stakeholders had a sense of a shared future together, because upon Arthur T. DeMoulas’s firing from the helm of Market Basket, all hell broke loose. (Details can be found in my coverage of the story over the past week HEREand HERE.)
The point is, many thousands of people believe that there is integrity of leadership in this community institution, and they do not want to lose that from a sale to an outside buyer or from a re-organization. They feel that they have partial ownership in the situation—and that can be your biggest asset or your worst nightmare, depending on how you honor it.
Interesting—because we have also seen this happen in the nonprofit sector when stakeholders have voted with their feet, wallets, and energy, as in the case of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure debacle.
It may be that the changes in governance we have all been sensing will cut across sectors a bit as people begin to understand and use their collective power in guiding institutions that they care about.
Just a thought.
Do you know what your stakeholders think of your organization? Do they have as clear a sense of its values as the Market Basket shoppers and workers have? Would they get out in the streets for your shared future?