KABOOM! My First Head Explosion Of 2014: “Management Experts” Just Realized That The President Is A Poor Manager

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Appearances to the contrary, this is not a post about what a weak, inept and dangerously incompetent leader President Obama is. I wrote so many of those last year that I started waking up every morning praying that there wouldn’t be another story in the news like this one (I know I’ve linked to it before), showing that our great nation is being run by a collection of arrogant amateurs and fools with flat learning curves who would run a bed and breakfast into ruin. No, this is a post composed after picking up my brains following the head explosion fused by this passage (and those surrounding it) in a hot-off-the-presses feature in Politico, the left-leaning political news and commentary website:

“To what extent do Obamacare’s early problems reflect the limitations, in experience and intellectual interest, of its namesake? The heart of the issue, many of these people say, is that Obama and his inner circle had scant executive experience prior to arriving in the West Wing, and dim appreciation of the myriad ways the federal bureaucracy can frustrate an ambitious president. And above all, they had little apparent interest in the kind of organizational and motivational concepts that typically are the preoccupation of the most celebrated modern managers. ‘No one asked you to write code or be a technical expert, but the expectation is you can set up a process,’ said Kellogg School of Management professor Daniel Diermeier. ‘Companies do it every day.'”

Ugh. Now see what you made me do? I put that in large, bold type, and it caused an aftershock explosion, and now I’m picking pieces of skull and ick out of my keyboard.

NOW these “management experts” are realizing that Obama doesn’t know how to manage? NOW they tell us that he had inadequate experience for the toughest management job in the world? It took them five years of watching classic, Management 101, and I’m talking high school Management 101, blunders  and head-slapping “I can’t believe this guy” statements, inaction and appointments, to come to a conclusion that was virtually forgone before Obama was nominated in 2008? These are not management experts. These are exactly the kind of blind enablers who have helped make Obama the epically awful leader that he is, by sitting back and cheering the dangerous pattern of naivete, inattention and sloppiness that manifested itself in the Administration, beginning at the top, from its very first days. Here’s another sentence from the embarrassing Politico post—I’m trying to type this one while looking away from the screen:

“For nearly five years, this dearth didn’t seem to matter much.”

Who are these frauds? Didn’t matter much?  What about the appointments of political hacks to key advisory positions? Good managers and leaders make certain that they deal with their own weaknesses by having competent and experienced staff members who supply expertise. Remember the expansive statements about not allowing lobbyists to fill key posts, followed by immediate appointments of individuals with extensive lobbying backgrounds, and subsequent “waivers”? Remember the appointment of a crucial Secretary of Treasure with a record of tax avoidance? Management requires an ongoing strengthening of a manager’s credibility, including conduct that models integrity for everyone serving under him. Didn’t matter much? A shockingly incompetent and politicized Attorney General, Eric Holder, is still in office despite one fiasco after another. Does Fast and Furious ring a bell, “experts”? Do you recall Holder’s ridiculous decision, which, like other ridiculous decisions, had to be reversed, to hold a civilian trial of a major Al Quida terrorist in New York City? Or Holder’s statements that no one should worry about the terrorists being acquitted, thus labeling it a show trial? Who does Holder report to? Didn’t matter much?

A primary reason for the Affordable Care Act mess is that the President lacked the political skills, experience and savvy to get a buy-in from Republicans when the bill was being constructed and passed, and  political skills are essential even in non-political management jobs. A primary reason his Obama’s hands are tied regarded measures he can take to stimulate the economy now is that he didn’t, and probably didn’t know how to make sure, using management, goals and oversight, that the original stimulus went to the right places and had sufficiently impressive results that he could justify a targeted stimulus later. Didn’t matter much?

What about trust? What about accountability? What  competent manager would watch a total, embarrassing public melt-down by a key appointee like Chuck Hagel in his confirmation hearing, and stubbornly give him the job anyway? What competent manager would appoint a life-long bumbler like John Kerry as Secretary of State (or a Joe Biden to be a heartbeat from the Presidency)? What competent manager would intentionally keep himself in the dark regarding NSA operations, the IRS’s activities and the Healthcare.gov website progress, and, after learning what had been going on, not fire anybody? What competent manager would draw “red lines” he had no intention of enforcing,  exacerbate natioanal racial tensions by injecting himself into a local murder investigation, talk about belt-tightening while indulging in lavish vacations and parties, and engage in a five-year lie—you know which one—when he had to know he would be exposed with devastating results to his ability to lead?

These unforgivably tardy management experts sat back in 2008 and probably voted for Obama, never applying their expertise at all, voting out of hope, ideology and good feelings, when they should have been issuing warnings. (Sen. McCain has never managed anything of substance either, by the way.) Nobody needs their expertise and solemn pronouncements now. It shouldn’t take a management expert five years to figure out that a leader doesn’t know management from applesauce when his sole solutions to any problem consist of giving a speech, blaming  someone else, or hoping an incompetent, but loyal staff doesn’t screw up again.

I’ve got to wipe down my screen now.

What a mess…


Pointer: Instapundit

Source: Politico

47 thoughts on “KABOOM! My First Head Explosion Of 2014: “Management Experts” Just Realized That The President Is A Poor Manager

  1. The issue of management in government is an interesting one. It’s tempting to look at Obama and say any high school management 101 textbook would have given him better advice. But that may be a little facile.

    If private sector management experience was directly transferable to government, then wouldn’t our one MBA President have been more managerially effective? (You know, the one that handled Katrina so well, etc.).

    And to give equal time, Jimmy Carter was initially lauded for his management capabilities – which turned out to be horribly micro- in nature. (Remember zero-based budgeting?)

    I’m not sure there’s consensus about who were really great managers: Lincoln? FDR? Nixon? LBJ? Those particular cases were also cases of really good political instincts – far from the technocratic skills taught in business school.

    • You are right Charles, but my view is this: when Roger Clemens was at his prime, his stats in Fenway Park and away were identical, despite that park’s offensive advantages. Why? As Bill James pointed out, a great jumper clears all hurdles, and their height doesn’t matter. In the same way, Obama is an anti-manager. He would fail managing a nation, a small store or a lemonade stand. Some people just aren’t managers or leaders, and when I see an intelligent man who learns nothing, makes the same mistakes over and over, and clearly thinks he is doing everything right, the correct word is “menace.” Make him a teacher, a speaker, a consultant, a community organizer, certainly a Senator or legislator, but never, never, ever a manager, of anything.

      Carter’s problem was less management than judgement, and he was also the point at which we learn that there is more to leadership than management. But management, at some level, is essential.

  2. I do so enjoy having people mention Katrina as a failure of Bush…

    It wasn’t Bush’s fault that dozens and dozens of buses weren’t use to evacuate New Orleans, and it wasn’t his fault that the National Guard wasn’t called in sooner, and those are two key factors as to why it turned into such a shit-storm.

    He also – unlike Obama – fired the guy in charge of FEMA. Who has Obama ever actually fired from a job?

    • Well, he fired the general who criticized him in Rolling Stone. Firing for job incompetence? His social director is the only one I can think of, after those scamsters the Salahis crashed his party.

      For Bush, Katrina was a failure of leadership and his advisors, plus awful luck. The fly-over was a mistake, though it made sense. Bush underestimated the media’s determination to let Nagin and Blanco shift the blame, and he didn’t see the race-baiting accusation coming, because he doesn’t think that way. It is the one time I can think of when John McCain would have been a perfect President. What was needed was someone to gather everyone in the room, and say, “Screw the red Tape, screw Nagin, screw the Governor. I want a full scale military operation and all those poor people evacuated. Do what it takes, but do it now, or I’ll have your heads. And he would have been a hero. Until the housing market collapsed, anyway.

      And there is no question that Bush had a complete goof heading FEMA, as have many Presidents, but that’s the risk you take, and he was justly held responsible.

  3. Hi Jack and Happy New Year! You must have gotten some extra rest and relaxation this week. This is one of your best yet!

    The keyword is accountability. There is none in this administration. Regardless of how managerially adept the government leader is, if he/she is allowed to continuously break promises, break their word and generally F____ up with no consequences, and no regard for its stakeholders, the organization is unsustainable.

    This is no different than what we are witnessing, year after year, in big finance and big pharma. It’s institutional corruption at its finest, with only a slap on the wrist, if that. Nobody is any longer held accountable or to a higher standard, let alone punished. And remember, the fish always rots from the head.

    Have a great year! Barbara

  4. My head exploded when Obama was elected the first time and has been exploding almost daily ever since. But, since I’m a conservative it follows I’m a raaaaacist. Daniel is probably one now as well. You can tell who we are by the massive head trauma.
    Cheap shot? Maybe, but I intend to blow up the divisive raaaaaacist label by whatever means necessary.

    • The racist stuff started during the 2008 campaign, and I had a sinking feeling then. http://ethicsscoreboard.com/list/sliming.html
      Now the nation has to face the fact that electing a black President will not mitigate racial tensions but worsen them, because Democrats just can help themselves from exploiting the racial divide for partisan gain. This is just the flipside of the same tactic Democrats condemned Republicans for in the so-called “Southern Strategy.”

  5. I don’t see any breach of ethics in trying to fix a health insurance system that was both discriminatory and an expanding burden on the tax payers. The fact that there have been technical issues with the website rollout is nothing any “management expert” should find surprising. “Companies do it every day.” Yes, and they also fail at times too. So they fix the bugs and that’s that. This is so very early in the process, condemning it, and by default, people it will help, is unethical.

    • Complete deflection.

      That reform of the medical insurance industry was needed is not argued. You’ve set up a strawman, Jack has not attacked Obama for attempting to reform the industry.

      Also, the website debacle is only a small part of the colossal failure that is obamacare, so in this you’ve created another semi-strawman, as Jack has addressed the entire fiasco of the ACA, not just the website rollout.

      Companies that fail at colossal rollouts go out of business. Most companies succeed because their livelihoods depend on it. I think it was Amazon.com, a markedly more complex website that rolled out practically flawlessly for 80 millions dollars (1/7th the cost of healthcare.gov).

      Fixing the bugs in the website will not fix the economic bugs that the law creates. Mathematics is an unforgiving science, and the economy will rapidly demonstrate for us why, you can’t add a ton of overhead expenses, a ton of demand, a decreased supply and not expect disaster.

      In terms of blatant numbers, obamacare will ‘help’* far less than it hurts. On average costs WILL increase, waits WILL increase, quality WILL decrease, so a marginally few will be able to buy insurance.

      * help in this case means creating a massive cost for people who can’t afford it.

    • Yes, companies fail at times too. But, they don’t just fix the bugs and “that’s that.”
      Look at Target. They had a security breach and people were up in arms (the Government might even come after them-Oh, the Irony!). Target did major damage control, apologizing for the breach (not a bug, mind you, an intentional breach of Target’s systems) and offering free credit monitoring and promising that any unauthorized charges would get fixed.
      While still reeling from that, Target screwed up a whole lot of gift cards (at Christmas Time)! Talk about bad luck.
      They can’t shift a deadline the way Obama can when his law explodes. Target has apologized for its screw-up more than anyone in the Obama Administration has for Obamacare. Target is scrambling to keep its good name and customers; Obama has no concern for customers, as their good will is mandated by law. And, Target is fixing the security breach, while Obama’s health care handlers are not even subject to background checks.
      The key distinction is this: Target is accountable when it screws up; the Government is not.

      • Nice analogy. It’s true, a company (at least, one that’s not deemed “too big to fail”) has to cover its own ass and beg forgiveness. If I decide I’m fed up with Target’s screwups I can decide not to shop there. You can’t opt out of the government without moving- they are allowed to send men with guns to make you play along.

  6. Jack,
    Your “run a bed and breakfast into ruin” reference – by any chance were you thinking of former Senator George McGovern? Back in the early 1990s he did precisely that, then wrote an essay about it.
    I have to give Senator McGovern credit for airing in public his hard-learned albeit belated experience (a small-business-owner’s variant of “a conservative is a liberal who’s gotten mugged”); I can think of no current-day politician, Democrat or Republican, retired or otherwise, who would pen anything remotely similar.

    • It might have been rattling around in my head somewhere, but I honestly had forgotten it. McGovern was a classic example of a good and decent man who had no business leading anything. What an awful President he would have been…

  7. You’re entitled to your opinion, but there is no empirical evidence to support your assertion that Quality will decrease.

  8. I’m sorry I didn’t understand your point, I was too busy reading Marx. You still can’t prove Quality is going to disappear.

    • Try to attach responses to the comments that generate them. My post didn’t say anything about quality, and one doesn’t have to prove anything. Life, experience and common sense tells us badly designed programs administered sloppily by incompetents are more likely to make things worse, not better. Nobody has to prove that.

      • OK. You called the guy cited in the excerpt a “management expert”, but they didn’t cite him as such; only a Professor. What’s the old expression ‘those who can’t do, tech and those who can’t teach…blog’c

        • And those who can’t do any of those things, including read, nitpick the work of others?
          Since the Politico piece was titled, “Management experts knock Obama,’ and the professor quoted was from a school of management, and since a professor of management would qualify as an expert for court purposes, and since he was among the three or four individuals quoted as authorities in a piece so titled, nobody but an utter ass would criticize my referring to them by the same description as the article I was writing about.

          “Those who engage in assholery rather than fair debate get kicked off Ethics Alarms.” I know I read that somewhere.

          • Daniel Diermeir, with all due respect, has no practical work experience in management, as a manager in a major company, to qualify his opinion as an ‘expert’. His CV is completely academic in nature, faculty this and visiting scholar that.

            Please kick me off.

            • Minus style points. The right way to do it is to keep ramping up the rhetoric and called-out behavior until your host forcibly ejects you. Asking to be kicked off indicates that you’re either too lazy to keep up, can’t think of any more arguments but don’t want to admit it, or want to feel like a martyr without earning it. Bah. Read up on how Ablativ Meatshield or Liberal Dan argue, then try to copy them without having built up a repository of goodwill here through substantive points. That should do it.

            • I aim to please. I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re not showing well. If you want to distinguish between academic experts and actual experience, that’s a valid topic, but since the post itself suggested that these alleged experts were less than claimed, what your quibbling amounts to is trolling. Richard Neustadt, the late Harvard professor, was regarded as an expert in the Presidency and its power—his work was read by Presidents, notably JFK, but he never was one. The fact is, and I HAVE managed as well as taught management, that successful managers are often lousy experts in any kind of management but their own, which is tailored to personality and style. In fact, this whole exchange indicates that you don’t comprehend the meaning of management, expertise, scholarship…oh, lots of things.

      • In her defense, assuming his/her computer is not populating her reply based on her clicking the correct “reply” link OR he/she doesn’t know which “reply” link to click, I think he/she was responding to my comment which did mention an inevitable decrease in quality.

        I think he/she is trying to be snarky towards me. He/she is an idiot.

    • Considering the crony company brought in to handle medicaid payments to hospitals is massively behind in making those payments, I find your faith in anything approaching competence to be laughable.

  9. Can deliberately appointing inferior minds to important positions keep bloc vote representatives ‘on the inside p****ing out’ but still keep them dominated or dependent on the President? Electoral politics is famously not management as such, I’d guess especially not two house split term electoral politics. Or is that just my Brit ‘House of Cards’ fantasy?

      • Strong management by a President or the Legislature in general is supposedly prevented by the constitutional checks and balances. Deft influencing of support would ideally start with enough backing in the country and have enough waverers/compromisers/guys with a price in pork on the opposition benches to keep limited order in your own ranks cheaply. Failing that you may have to allow some latitude to your team of dummies and suffer some burns. If President Obama does succeed in implementing ACA, that is all the history books will record. That’s the standard Presidents are held to. Competent Presidents get their own way.

        • The burden is on you to demonstrate how the President, by appointing morons even more incompetent than he is, can use a Cabinet and executive branch of dimwits, to dominate members of his party in the Legislature. That makes scant little sense. That’s how I read your initial assertion.

          Yes, there are Checks and Balances, which is why Jack didn’t say the Executive manages the Legislative. It DOES have to negotiate and make deals with the Legislative, and in that task, more effective managers ARE typically better deal makers and negotiators and LEADERS who can inspire successful, effective, legislative action.

          • The burden slipped from my shoulders when Jack said ‘Yes, but THAT..” which i take it means the idea is fairly familiar. Now if you want to hang the President the burden is for you to prove that such a manoeuvre is not sufficient to explain incompetent appointees.

            Whether the manoeuvre works or not may not be a function of management or leadership skill but also of the underlying level of political difficulty.

            Eventual success or failure would be the bench mark. Not intermediate style points. But I’m repeating myself.

            I’ve read the remainder of the blog posts, but not all the comments. For me, President Obama is not nailed for political incompetence. Not yet.

            • Political incompetence, or leadership incompetence? The problem is that the definitions of these for a national leader are special. A political leader can be effective appealing just to true believers; a national leader can’t. This is also one of many nuances of leadership Obama doesn’t get.

              • I’m afraid I can’t challenge you on the requirements of american national leadership. Not only that, I don’t want to. UK national leaders include Margaret Thatcher and Lloyd George. Neither appealed to a wide band of support, nor to me, for that reason if no other. If Presidents must pass a higher test – that’s great.

                As to whether President Obama passes the higher test, well…. I was taught in management school that leadership emergerges at the same time and in strict relation to followership. The whole group (leader and followers) then making a team. Does President Obama face an easier or harder leadership challenge than average, given the wideness of the divide and the stridency of the conflict within the nation? How is america doing on national followership?

                • You can’t make cross cultural comparisons here, Bruce. An American President is 45% PM, 45% king, and 10% something else. A British PM is closer to a Speaker of the House than to a POTUS. Americans follow strong leaders just fine…too fine, sometimes. An absence of strong national leadership is always blamed on poor followership, but that’s wrong.

                  • Then I’m very much in favour of the 10% something else.

                    I notice you advocate strength (strong leaders, strong managers). Is it possible that you are judging the weakness of the man inherently? I mean rather than judging his lack of leadership or management skills as such (overtaxed skills could have explanations in tthe weakness of his position or the enormity of circumstances and events – I can’t think why it would definitely be wrong to say so).

                    I feel I am flailing at this a little. Thanks for the responses.

                  • Perhaps I might offer: An ideal Presidency includes a President who is a strong person, in a weak political position, skillfully leading and managing a strong and deeply unified nation through difficult questions and hard times.

                    Comparing the ideal with the current reality there is a clear disjunction, In separating politics from management and both from leadership, one might might miss the nature and scale of the difference. But taking the issue broadly, it is clear that a proven lack of integrity effectively means that all other virtues must be assumed to be diminished to nil until otherwise proven. .

  10. I was truly shocked in 2008 when this bozo got elected and doubled shocked when he was reelected. But then again, he seemed to know how to use a podium and a teleprompter. As far as management skills, he had none coming into office and as narcissists generally believe, he didn’t have anything to learn.

    • I was truly shocked in 2008 when this bozo got elected and doubled shocked when he was reelected.
      Yes, I was as well.
      Since then I will never do anything as careless as doubting the incredible, abject stupidity of the average American.
      Well, stupidity and Lemming-like behavior.
      I just hope the Obama voters get what they voted for, if you know what I mean.

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