A Need for Technical Work in the Aftermath of Yet Another Mass Shooting

In the Governor’s Fellows Program, everyone who I work with works under the governor of Virginia (Ralph Northam), who has the most power and serves as the leader of the office. As governor, Ralph Northam is faced with the largest and most pressing issues related to politics/ policy. As such, Governor Northam was in charge of addressing and responding to the Virginia Beach shooting that occurred on May 31st. In response to the Virginia Beach shooting, Governor Northam held a press conference at the state capitol this past Tuesday, June 4th. Many individuals who work in the Governor’s office attended the press conference, including me.

While listening to Governor Northam speak at the press conference on Tuesday, I felt as though his response to the Virginia Beach shooting was reminiscent of adaptive work that has the ability to turn into technical work. As we learned in Theories and Models, adaptive work involves clarifying a problem that does not have a clear solution, assessing the values of those involved, realizing new goals based upon reality, and calling individuals to action. Meanwhile, in Theories and Models we learned that technical work is work that relates to a problem that has a clear solution. The Northam administration believes there is a clear solution when it comes to addressing gun violence: common sense gun reform. However, there is not a consensus among members of opposing political parties in Virginia that common sense gun reform is the best way to address and decrease gun violence in Virginia. At the press conference on Tuesday, Governor Northam noted this difference of opinion, and stated that the Virginia General Assembly- which is largely comprised of Republicans- have blocked his past efforts to enact legislation related to common sense gun reform. This- in turn- creates an additional problem that must be addressed, and- as a result- adaptive work becomes a necessary step in making the work of the Northam administration technical.

At the press conference on Tuesday, Governor Northam acted in ways that align with the Theories and Models definition of adaptive work. As mentioned above, at the press conference Governor Northam noted that currently there is not a clear solution to the issue of gun violence in Virginia as Republican and Democratic legislators are unable to agree upon legislation related to common sense gun reform. At the press conference, Governor Northam also clarified the values of the Commonwealth, and noted a common interest in protecting our loved ones and not having to worry if they will return back safely from “work,” “school,” or “church.” Additionally, at the press conference, Governor Northam recognized a new goal- increasing conversation among legislators from opposing parties in Virginia- by announcing a special legislative session next month to address gun violence. Finally, at the press conference, Governor Northam called individuals to action, stating that “delay only means what it always means… that there will be a next time.”

I believe that Governor Northam’s adaptive work in response to the Virginia Beach shooting is a necessary step towards the administration finally being able to pass legislation related to common sense gun reform, and towards actions relating to gun reform efforts in Virginia becoming technical. Additionally, I believe that Governor Northam’s use of adaptive work and ability to address the situation head-on and in a communicative, coherent, and empathetic manner may serve to combat some of the challenges his administration faced this past year regarding the multiple scandals that occurred in February, and could even serve as a necessary step towards restoring unity within the administration.

In Theories and Models, Dr. Goethals stated that “adaptive work done well becomes technical work.” I hope this statement will hold true when it comes to the efforts of the Northam administration to enact common sense gun reform in Virginia.

One thought on “A Need for Technical Work in the Aftermath of Yet Another Mass Shooting

  • June 14, 2019 at 10:38 am
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    Really thoughtful reflection and discussion regarding the need for adaptive work around this challenging/controversial issue. I hope that you are correct and the approach does lead to more productive conversation and action around this issue. It will be interesting to see, as you continue, if you find other instances of the Governor employing adaptive work and if so, if it is as successful when dealing with other issues. Nice photo!

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