We Want Our Twinkies Back


This past week, a tragedy occurred.  The entitlement and stubbornness of union leaders forced Hostess (makers of Twinkies, HoHos, Wonder Bread, etc.) to cease operations forever.  The result: 18,500 jobs lost, $2.5 billion of revenue squandered, and millions of sweet-tooth consumers left with a craving.

Pretty much the same thing happened to this year’s NHL season.  Greedy players who refused to accept the realities of team economics ended up losing a year of their careers while hockey fans were left out in the cold.

I’m sure collective bargaining laws were put into place back in 1935 for good reason.  Workers in the industrial age were thought to be easily replaceable, so big, powerful companies could theoretically mistreat them.  Concerns around workers’ geographic boundaries, ability to make their voices heard, restricted information, and limited choices led congress to pass laws that at the time were likely well-intentioned.

But a lot has changed in 77 years.  Today, we live in an age of abundant information, boundless mobility, global competition, and limitless choices.   A single worker’s concerns can be amplified worldwide through social media.   And competition for talent is stiff, driving employers to do everything possible to delight their team members instead of mistreat them.

The architects of union legislation never imagined a world where spoiled athletes would use collective bargaining to extract an extra $1.3 million a year for throwing a fastball.  Or unions that, when faced with the hard facts, would rather sink the ship of an iconic company than accept a wage package that allowed that company to remain competitive.

The problem with our laws is that they are permanent.  Carefully drafted rules that consider all the nuances of the day cannot possibly remain relevant forever.  It would make more sense for the laws to have terms – just like our elected officials.  At the end of these terms, the details of the legislations would be revisited and adapted to the issues of the new day.

While we can’t easily change Congress, we can change our own efforts.  What “rules” do you follow in your business or life that are mindlessly saluting the flag of the past?  Isn’t it time to take inventory of your processes, policies, and procedures to carefully examine their relevance?

The most successful people – and companies – are those that constantly reinvent.  They refuse to do things just because they’ve always been done a certain way.  They are obsessed with constantly finding fresh approaches.

Let’s stop fitting yesterday’s square peg in today’s round hole.  You’ll enjoy newfound success by challenging the rules of the past.  Go ahead… give your old thinking a term-limit to break free from the shackles of tradition.

And while you’re enjoying the thrill of victory, I’ll (hopefully) go back to enjoying my Twinkies.