The sewage issue on the Mexican border devastates the city of Imperial Beach. Millions of gallons of toxic sludge that can barely be called water pollute the land, air, and sea. However, it is important to realize that Imperial Beach is not the only victim of this situation. The U.S. Border Patrol agents, the U.S. Navy SEALs, and people living on both sides of the border are affected by the problem. Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, fights an exhausting battle in order to attract the attention of the U.S. Navy brass (Stahl, 2020). Unfortunately, his efforts are fruitless due to the several issues in leadership and organization, which must be addressed to foster changes.
Issue 1. Poor Communication
Most importantly, the stakeholders negatively affected by the sewage issue do not communicate with the authorities effectively. The Border Patrol agents are frustrated since they have to constantly go into highly toxic sludge in order to stop illegal migrants (Stahl, 2020). Wild Coast, a group of concerned citizens from both sides of the border, helplessly watches how the factories dump chemicals in the Tijuana River. The Navy SEALs cope with rashes and bacterial infections because natural waves are crucial for proper combat training. However, these groups cannot articulate their problems well enough to force the U.S government officials and U.S. Navy to undertake meaningful action.
Issue 2. The Lack of Shared Vision
The second issue lies in stakeholders’ and the mayor’s inability to create a shared vision. In the Imperial Beach case, one can see how the victims of the sewage crisis struggle against the tide alone. The Border Patrol, the Wild Coast, and the Navy SEALs veterans have not developed a strong unifying image of their cause. As a result, these stakeholders fail at delivering their concerns to the U.S. officials in a compelling manner.
Analysis of the Identified Issues
Poor communication usually stems from problems in understanding the concept of information and working with it. According to Wheatley (2006), management’s task lies in enforcing control, essentially containing the information. However, such an approach to information prevents the generation of newness. When information merely confirms what is already known, the result will be death (Wheatley, 2006). In the Imperial Beach case, mayor Dedina spends time “hammering people in power” and “getting them to acknowledge that dumping toxic waste is happening” (Stahl, 2020). While the mayor is persistent, his perspective on the toxic sewage issue does not hold any novelty for the U.S. government and military officials. Without fresh information, life cannot give birth to anything new (Wheatley, 2006). As a result, the mayor’s efforts are not sufficient for causing a meaningful reaction. The desirable order is not emerging because Dedina does not strengthen his position with new input from other stakeholder groups.
A shared vision is a powerful force that does not exist in the Imperial Beach Case. According to Senge (2006), a shared vision residing in hearts and minds creates a sense of commonality that gives coherence to diverse activities. In addition, shared visions naturally compel courage, which is vital for pursuing the ultimate goal (Senge, 2006). In the Imperial Beach case, Mayor Dedina fights for the cause alone. At the same time, the Border Patrol and Navy SEALs’ representatives remain confused and frustrated. Consequently, the vital stakeholders do not contribute to the solution of the issue, which severely undermines the effect of the mayor’s actions.
Ideas for Solving Identified Issues
In regard to poor communication problems, mayor Dedina should add the element of novelty to his perspective. The current situation can be considered a deadlock, where the mayor’s position and arguments are well-known and not taken seriously. Wheatley (2006) claims that information must be continually generated in order to keep a system alive. Therefore, if mayor Dedina reaches out to frustrated and confused Border Patrol agents, Navy SEALs, and Wild Coast activists, he will put the U.S. government and Navy officials in front of new information. The new facts and perspectives will put additional pressure on the decision-makers, which might be sufficient for pushing them into action.
Forging a shared vision between several stakeholders will be necessary for ensuring their commitment to the end goal. This challenging process will require following through several important steps. Firstly, mayor Dedina should encourage his allies to create their personal visions, separated from his own. The Border Patrol, the Navy SEALs, the Wild Coast should develop their incentive for solving the sewage issue. Secondly, as a coalition leader, the mayor needs to join stakeholders’ visions into a shared vision. Senge (2006) suggests using the bottom-up approach to creating a shared vision through ongoing conversation. Lastly, mayor Dedina needs to develop a set of governing ideas. These ideas will answer three critical questions — what goal is to be achieved, why it must be achieved, and how it will be achieved.
In regard to the Imperial Beach case, it would be sensible to use the information from the stakeholders to foster the shared vision. For instance, solving the sewage problem is mandatory for protecting the health of the U.S. Border Patrol agents and Navy SEALs. These men and women serve their country, and the country should not ignore harmful conditions of service. Therefore, new facts, such as the number of Navy SEALs contracting various infections, must be brought to the influential decision-makers’ attention. By doing so, mayor Dedina will have a better chance of overcoming the indifference and idleness of the U.S. Navy and government.
Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. Currency Doubleday.
Stahl, L. (2020). Raw sewage flowing into the Tijuana River brings toxic sludge to California. CBS News. Web.
Wheatley, M. J. (2006). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world. Berrett Koehler.