Budo organizations are largely voluntary, and what that means is that nobody is getting paid to take shite. Yet the culture of budo tends toward dictatorial pronouncement and “my way or the highway” combined with admonitions to be loyal little robots.
No wonder we’re not taken seriously in most of society. Folks come in, get fed up and leave.
Let’s do a thought experiment shall we? Remember that we’re talking about volunteers, those who do things for free, they are not paid and they can leave at any time. So here we have a top banana who can’t organize, doesn’t communicate and won’t take responsibility. As a result there are underlings who are never consulted, who are not allowed to do their jobs, and are actively undercut. The boss resents any attempts at anything but “do what I say”, and practices “management by hiring and firing”.
Sound familiar? Well it isn’t a case study, just an accumulation of what I’ve seen over my lifetime. I’ve always loved the idea of managing by hiring and firing, it is practiced in the University quite a lot, it’s why bosses hate unions. A unionized worker “can’t be fired” they say. That’s wrong, they can usually be fired very easily, but they have to be fired “for something”. In my union the process was 3 letters. Manager Bob had to set out what the problem was and how to fix it, then a second warning and finally, the third letter which says “you’re fired”. The impossible part there, was always setting out that problem and how to fix it. There was usually no identifiable problem, it mostly came down to “I don’t like him”. “You don’t like him? Tough, do your job and manage properly”.
In volunteer organizations “hiring and firing” works just fine. With no money being involved, and a boss that doesn’t do his job but complains that you’re why the job didn’t get done, it’s not likely that Joe Underling is going to complain when asked to leave. More like “yes, now I’m off the hook, thank you very much, I’m out of here”.
Now take that to a small organization with only a few possibilities to fill the jobs. Can we see a problem here?
Management by instinct and proclamation, by whim and wishing works about as well as any other job, like teaching, that is done by guess and by gosh.
So how does this situation survive? We know it does. For one thing, who wants the job? Seriously, who wants to run things in a volunteer organization? Very few people. There’s no pay, and in the budo world, there’s no glory. I bet you know six or seven people who are super high ranked or super high, administratively, in their organization. You won’t know it, not unless they make a habit of telling you about it.
And some do, which brings us to the problems, the guys who want, who NEEEED desperately to be in charge of something because that’s their self-esteem in a nutshell. “I’m the head of a martial arts organization!” It means a lot to some folks. To the rest of us, maybe not so much. “Really, that’s nice, I’m the head of a photo club… oh, and also owner of a multinational pharmaceutical company”. If you really, really want to be in charge of something, you are going to see any sort of disagreement with your whims, as a personal threat to your self esteem. Reaction comes accordingly.
Then there’s the habit of loyalty that hangs around the “samurai ideals” sort of thing like the smell of old socks in a gym. Most of us start our budo career as young men who are seriously in need of a cause, who want to dedicate their lives to a higher ideal. The idea of loyalty fits right in there. It takes decades to understand that 1. The samurai weren’t so much loyal as employed and 2. loyalty to idiots is idiotic, or put more kindly, blind loyalty is a waste of time.
Finally there is the wages of volunteer budo, which is rank. The bad manager always has the “nuclear option” of witholding your next rank. Yay. Wait, rank? That’s only a threat if I allow it to be a threat. Only if I care about rank. Do I? Do you?
The customer side of all this? It’s the students who have to put up with the flip-flopping, with the arbitrary decisions and changes of rules as the top banana keeps asserting his authority by forcing people to do what he says. Actually that second sentence was mis-written wasn’t it. It should read “the students who DO NOT have to put up with the flip-flopping”.
Our thought experiment comes down to the vote. Will this management style be in the best interests of your martial art? Yes/No.
No wonder I often head into a store for some “retail therapy”, where I get people who approach me and say “can I help you”? And smile. Ah the reception of a smile without the need to check for a weapon any more deadly than a credit card machine. So nice.
Happy post-holiday shopping.
Jan 6, 2019
April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough.
May 17-20 Annual CKF International Jodo and Iaido seminar and grading, (Kurogo sensei and Mansfield sensei) Guelph.
August TBD. Montreal Jodo seminar and grading with Eric Tribe, Ed Chart and Japanese instructor (TBA)
November 8-10 Annual CKF International Jodo seminar and grading (Kurogo sensei), Mississauga (Port Credit).