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Norm R. Augustine
Technology/Civic Leader

Norm R. Augustine

A former president of the Boy Scouts of America and chair of the American Red Cross, Norm Augustine is the retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Decision Making, Government-Style

One should never confuse negotiating with decision-making. In government, with the possible exception of the military during combat, decisions are not made, they are negotiated. The Founding Fathers wanted it that way: They had seen what happens when too much power is placed in the hands of one individual without strong checks and balances.

The U.S. business model more closely parallels the military prototype. It is efficient, decisive, and vulnerable to the failings of individuals inappropriately placed in positions of leadership.

It is, in my experience, always to a leader's advantage to "float the first draft." That way her agenda becomes the starting point for negotiations. Unfortunately, when dealing in highly confrontational, untrusting environments (read: U.S. government) the mere act of seeking to provide the initial draft may be viewed as a hostile act, usurping the prerogatives of others. In this case it is best to offer one's own set of objectives and principles and leave it to the negotiating process to hammer out an action plan.

The business model might be characterized as, "Specify objectives, listen to advice from all involved, and then the leader decrees the plan to be followed." In contrast, in government the more common approach is, "Specify objectives, make a proposal, then negotiate a plan through compromise." The latter word may be the reason why some business executives have proved ineffectual in high-level government positions.

Whatever the case, the greater the extent to which those affected by a plan can be involved in preparing the plan, the more likely they are to take ownership in it and the more likely it is to succeed. As they say in aerospace (my field), "If you want me there at the crash, be sure I'm aboard for the takeoff."

I'd think President Obama's best course in the case of health care would be to offer a set of objectives and principles, offer a skeleton plan (perhaps including alternatives) as a starting point, and then seek involvement in preparing the plan of those affected by the plan. The reason for the skeleton plan is that "committees" tend to be much more efficient at critiquing than at creating.

By Norm R. Augustine

 |  March 4, 2009; 12:23 PM ET
Category:  Public policy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It appears that the president has taken the advice of Norm Augustine in submitting a health plan to the Congress. As Augustine has not been a part of the financial world, has been rather an executive and board member of the military and the consumer manufacturing world, I reject the vituperative comment of GNPSZUL.

Posted by: Blivet1 | March 6, 2009 11:49 AM
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I happen to agree with Mr. Augustine, and I don't see why his brief op-ed piece merits such nasty comments.

Posted by: ctnickel | March 6, 2009 9:34 AM
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I happen to agree with Mr. Augustine, and I don't see why his brief op-ed piece merits such nasty comments.

Posted by: ctnickel | March 6, 2009 9:17 AM
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As they say in aerospace (my field), "If you want me there at the crash, be sure I'm aboard for the takeoff."

Uh, I'll take a skilled Air Force Academy grad and pilot, like Wesley Sullenberger.

By the way, you corporate thieves eliminated pensions for the guys like him flying the planes. The next guy and gal crashing in NY were low-cost "corporate think" newbies. Some pilots earn $14,000 a year, now.

Great move, corporate type.

Then again, your Gulfstream V or VI will be safe on your way to one of your multiple homes.

I wouldn't follow you down a fire escape.

Posted by: gnpszul | March 5, 2009 8:42 PM
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Let's see. The Boy Scouts are foundering. The Red Cross has had multiple scandals. And, oh yeah, Lockheed has enormous "cost overruns" and has benefited from one-source contracting. Your credibility: 0.0. That' right. Null and void.

You and your corporate thug brethren have created a world in which privates and teachers, firefighters and Marines, lay their lives on the line for what people like you spend in jet fuel on the corporate dime to bring their families on vacation at a Caribbean resort.

Your system has "outsourced" our jobs, torpedoed our economy, destroyed our retirement hopes and college savings, while you and they gorged on lavish salaries, "performance HA! pay", and even, yes, get this, "retention payments."

We rely on your advice like deer hunters rely on an accordion.

Shut up. And, no, I'm not a liberal.

I used to say a conservative was a liberal who got mugged.

Now, I think 95% of Americans have been bludgeoned, robbed, and raped by people like you.

We're all "liberals" now. Hoping to survive the disaster you created. Shut up.

Posted by: gnpszul | March 5, 2009 8:16 PM
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