You Just Can’t Say “Fix It!”

But unfortunately that is just what happened when President Obama handed over the fixing of the nation’s healthcare system to Congress soon after his inauguration.

Executives need to direct and guide their organizations, political parties and operations.  Identifying problems is a good start, but without at least the outline of a general solution, problem identification is more the purview of the non-manager.

As a leader myself, as an organizational consultant working in the planning and implementation of change and as a student of leadership I have been thinking about the healthcare fiasco and further thought to share my thinking with  anyone who will listen.  Not to criticize what did or did not take place, but to illustrate an example that might be helpful to other leaders.

So what could Mr. Obama have done?

He beautifully articulated and campaigned for healthcare reform so well that he won the presidency.  But he could have done a bit more other than just turning the problem over to Congress to fix.

Executives need to clarify the desired state…just what would it look like, in general terms, when it was done?  What would be the main components of a healthcare reform effort?  What would be the essential elements that the president wanted included and what would be the no-go elements that he absolutely did not want.  In change management parlance, he could have articulated a more clear vision of the future state.

Given that, he could have then met with the Congressional leaders of both parties, or, given his super majority, maybe just with his team.  And in those meetings he would “sell” his vision, making the case for each of the essential elements.  The ensuing discussion could have generated more detail as to the vision as well as additional components of it.

In change management parlance, he would be establishing sponsorship for the initiative.

That initial sponsorship now armed with the case for change and an ability to articulate that vision would further expand the sponsorship, cascading responsibility and enlisting commitment throughout the various constituencies necessary to develop a healthcare fix and to further sell others on the need to act.

Once this infrastructure of sponsorship was established, the next step would be to get away from emotion and opinion by mandating a needs assessment or comprehensive study.  What is going well, not so well, what are the major issues, who are the major players in the healthcare arena?  Further, what are specific things that should be started, stopped or left alone?

From this needs assessment would flow numerous study groups, action teams, call-them-what-you-like teams, that would generate solutions and recommendations…all within the context set by the president.

We are witnessing what happens when Congress is given free rein to fix anything, so in the future, the president, or any executive, must lead by giving direction, a vision of a future state, gaining the commitment of key sponsors and widely engaging others, as inclusively as possible, in the generation of solutions.

Don’t just say,”Fix it!”

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin Niemi says:

    What happens when politicians explain their plans and goals? At first during debates, nominations, and campaigns we hear high-level promises. If the ideas sound good, we vote for the politicians. Once in office the politicians tell us more about their plans and goals and how they will change things. President Obama, for whom I have the utmost respect and wish him well, talks about “transformative change.”

    At this point in time it is critical to build trust. People already voted, and now they want to hear more. I am not singling out President Obama or any politician, but I am singling out this critical part of the process. I cover this in detail in Chapter 1 of my book BE D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C. Or NO ONE WILL CARE!, but briefly it’s about “SETTING DIRECTION.”

    What is expected of a politician or anyone for that matter is to eventually paint a clear and vivid picture of the destination, which includes points of view, rational and emotional concerns, aspects of the five senses, and so forth. When the destination is vivid, it lives, eats, and breathes. And as a result, people become aware and willing – they want it.

    President Obama does not do this. He leaves the future vague, talks about the moral imperatives and the impact of doing nothing, and things that sound good – things that almost all of us like. So, we feel “connection” to his plans at a high level. The problem now is he needs to say more – a lot more.

    But he does not, and dropping approval polls reflect this. The details are not there. The details we know are who he surrounds himself with (radicals from the 60’s and 70’s, union bosses, political insiders/lobbyists, elitists, progressives, et cetera), and the specific bills developing in the (Pelosi, Reid) Congress (which are too long, complicated, and few have read).

    These details don’t fit with his high-level guidelines. The result = lack of trust, which engenders suspicion that undermines everything. There will be no “transformative change” in this situation. That’s my professional opinion.

    BIO for Kevin Niemi

    Kevin Niemi is a Management Consultant, Author, and Owner/General Manager of Consultora Fielder’s Guide to Change, C.A., a Venezuelan company. His consulting work has focused on OD and change management services to a wide number of clients and industries internationally.

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