Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Meaning of "Executive Management" .... ObamaCare, Rock Stars and Getting the Job Done

We've all heard President Obama's words. We've seen and listened to his speeches.

And now we know how he manages. He doesn't.

Of course, he had no previous management experience prior to his entering his current position as Chief Executive of the United States. It's on the job training in real time and front and center for all to see.

So how's it going five years into the experiment with presidential management, or perhaps better said, the lack thereof?

An Executive Without Energy captures Obama's lack of management capability and continuous effort to duck responsibility for the current ObamaCare fiasco as follows:

"The Affordable Care Act . . . is President Obama's signature legislative achievement, and the trail of responsibility for its botched rollout ends at the Oval Office.
Over the past century, we have come to see the presidency as the principal source of the legislative agenda that Congress considers, and we tend to regard the enactment of the president's program as the key test of his efficacy. In the process, we have played down the importance of presidential management. The travails of the Affordable Care Act have reminded us that this understanding of the presidency is distorted—and reflects a neglectful reading of the Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton, in defending the presidency that the proposed Constitution would establish, remarked that "the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration." The Federalist's co-author famously saw "energy in the executive" as a leading characteristic of good government, in large part because such energy is "essential to the steady administration of the laws." Section 3 of Article II of the Constitution states: The president "shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed."
The occupant of the office is rightly (and revealingly) called the chief executive.
In the early days of the Republic and for much of its history, executing and administering the law mostly involved enforcement. With the rise of the administrative state, a step prior to enforcement became essential. This involved translating Congress's will into terms specific enough to be workable and providing the means of administration. The chief executive's role expanded correspondingly to include ultimate responsibility for regulations and for the administrative activities of an increasingly complex executive branch beyond the White House.
No president, of course, can possibly do all this directly. As chief executive, his core task is to establish managerial arrangements that transmit his priorities to subordinates and ensure the flow of accurate and timely information up the chain of command, all the way to him if necessary.
Every experienced manager knows that, left to its own devices, the system will not always behave this way. The agents acting on the president's behalf may have their own priorities and may not deem it in their interest to share information with superiors, especially if the news is bad. So the president must lean against these perverse tendencies, not only by demanding regular and detailed progress reports but also by establishing a zone of safety and encouragement for truth-tellers. The president's subordinates at every level must be on notice that candor will be rewarded and the failure to transmit vital information will be punished.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that President Obama failed to institute such arrangements. He rejected excellent advice from many quarters to appoint an overall project manager, reporting directly to the White House, who was a skilled executive with experience implementing complex information systems. The day-to-day links between the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services frayed, and responsibility for the website shifted four times before ending up in the hands of a midlevel bureaucrat at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who lacked the authority to crack heads and break logjams.
Although there were dozens of contractors, there was no prime contractor, a role for which CMS was ill-suited but filled by default.
Making matters worse was a tension between politics and administration. The emerging narrative suggests that key regulatory decisions were delayed to avoid giving Republicans potent lines of attack before the 2012 election. Technology experts contend that crucial parameters were specified too late to permit adequate design and testing, and they are incredulous that testing of the overall system did not begin until just weeks before the launch.
The American people are losing what little confidence they retained in the capacity of the national government to act effectively, and the president's standing as a competent manager of his own government has eroded badly. Unless President Obama can restore confidence in the government and in his leadership, the people may well hold the rest of his ambitious agenda at arm's length."
Summing Up
Our current American system of all politics, all the time, is totally inconsistent with sound management and a system of governance embracing personal freedoms and individual responsibilities.
Government knows best is all about politics and elections and harms the very people it purports to help. Look at Europe.
Elections are all about popularity and not about competency. Look at Obama And Romney as an example.
So now we have ObamaCare and in excess of $100 trillion in unfunded national debt of all kinds (inclusive of Social Security and Medicare unfunded obligations), and my guess is we'll be watching it grow for a very long time to come. Until the fit hits the shan, whenever that happens, and which someday it most certainly will.
Living within our means, personal responsibility and self reliance are rapidly becoming relics of the past, and I regret that very much.
We oldsters haven't done a very good job of leaving behind the right kind of America for future generations.
Let's hope that somehow they are smarter than we have been.
That's my take.
Thanks. Bob.

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