Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Roger Simon thinks that President Obama's legion of czar appointees may be grounds for impeachment. That's extreme--IMHO we're not even in the same solar system as an impeachable offense because the President should have broad latitude to organize the Executive branch however he wants--but I do think that the President's management style betrays his inexperience about how organizations and people work. Yes, Barack Obama won, but his victory is no proof of managerial perspicacity: getting elected is as different from governing as does being hired for a job means that one will do well at it.

It takes time for organizations to develop processes that accomplish their mission. Over 200 years in development, the United States government has enough processes to satisfy the most ardent of bureaucrats (whether the processes are followed is, of course, a different matter.)

The red tape is frustrating to everybody, but most rules were put in place to make sure some long-forgotten error or ethical outrage doesn't happen again. And so we have multiple bids required on every contract in order that the taxpayer won't get overcharged, diversity measures to address past discrimination, and environmental impact statements to make sure we don't inadvertently cause the extinction of a species. Government checklists are many pages long. The whole system moves slow as molasses in a light-speed age.

Adding czars who have unclear authority (does a "green" czar, for example, override existing EPA and Transportation regulations, or is his simply another line appended to the signature page?) piles on the confusion, delay, and cost. There's a good reason why management consultants advise struggling corporate behemoths to eliminate layers and strengthen lines of authority and responsibility. Adding more bosses to an already-confused system is a mistake, whether the Administration is Republican or Democratic. Too bad we'll all have to pay for Barack Obama's management education. © 2009 Stephen Yuen

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