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Jim Kouzes

Jim Kouzes

Jim Kouzes is the Dean’s Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, and the coauthor with Barry Posner of the internationally award-winning and best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge.

A National Conversation

The last time an administration tried to fundamentally change health care policy in this country they gathered a group of very bight people, spent months is closed-door conversations, produced a well-reasoned plan, and then tried to sell it to Congress, the health care industry, health care professionals, and the American people. It failed.

Pushing down a plan crafted at the top will suffer the same fate this time around. That much is guaranteed. And while there is no assurance that a more collaborative approach will succeed, the president and his team need to heed what Mr. Obama knows very well from his days as a community organizer. The parties who are affected by the change will be more supportive if they are involved in planning the change. It won't be easy, but it's the most viable option.

Before there can be any agreement on the means there has to be an agreement on the ends. Shared values and shared vision are the foundations for building productive, lasting, and genuine change. Before sound policies can be negotiated, leaders must first gain consensus on a common set of principles that will inform decisions and actions. President Obama has begun the dialogue with his articulation of the eight principles for transforming health care that are written into the 2010 budget. These principles now offer guidance to everyone involved and should become the focus of the conversation.

If the Obama administration and Congress leap too soon into writing prescriptions to cure the health care system ills, they are highly likely to end up in bitter battles over whose medicine is more efficacious without first coming to agreement over why we are taking the medicine in the first place.

Policy makers need to engage with each other and with the American people in a deep, open, and honest dialogue about what most matters to us. Our research on organizational values clearly indicates that gaining consensus on shared values makes a significant positive difference in attitudes and performance. Dissonance over values, however, results in conflict, false expectations, diminished capacity, and high degrees of stress. If we are going to make any progress as a nation on curing the ills of the health care system, we first must find that common ground on which any new system will be built.

By Jim Kouzes

 |  March 3, 2009; 11:37 AM ET
Category:  Public policy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Five Key Principles | Next: Decision Making, Government-Style


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I couldn't agree more with this piece. Health care is a fundamental issue for everyone in this country and there should be maximum input and transparancy to the process of contemplating reform. No matter what the politicians and President say, changes to the national health care delivery and financing mechanism will somehow impact both cost and quality for generations.

The relevance of Health Care to the GNP is significant enough to give us pause, lest we inadvertantly lay the groundwork for another mortgage-meltdown kind of mess as we did in the 90's. We are deep still in the suffering phase of that problem -- but not so deep as to not glean some lessons from relevent causes of it's genesis.

It is not sufficient to simply decide this based on a few, partisan perspectives. Few members of Congress or the administration are health care professionals. Not all health care professionals and insurers agree with current proposals. No "perfect" solution likely exists. That notwithstanding, bi-partisanship demands true, not superficial collaboration. Collaboration should lead to new ideas, not simple rationalization of one point of view and dismissal of another because "we won." This is too important to fall victim to the silly, petty, partisan games of politicians.

Issues of this importance and long-term effect also deserve time to be resolved -- and time to be properly aired to the public who will pay for and live (or die)with them. This airing cannot in any good conscience be focused on simple, single-outcome truisms such as "universal coverage," or "only the rich will pay more." We need to understand the import of things like means-testing for Medicare, and the implication which that slippery slope may have on other entitlements in the future.

Our legislators are only in office for 2, 4, 6, or 8 years -- it is not rationale that we assume their brief tenure should so materially impact the next 50 or 100. They need to accept willingly that their mission is to lead to solutions on issues like this, and not presume that their myopic views (like all of ours) is correct.

Posted by: DOps | March 4, 2009 11:03 AM
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