Comparing the First 2012 Presidential Debate with Lean Leadership

 

Bill Wadell’s writing on Emerging Excellence constantly brings me back to see what he has to write on lean and other subjects.  I don’t always agree with him on personal opinions, but he is an interesting character, and is certainly smart enough to convey his opinions in an entertaining, digestible, and intelligent way.  He seems to have the faintest hint of conspiracy theorist – focusing more on our country’s manufacturing and industry dim future than on aliens or 9/11 cover-ups.

In his most recent article, “The Difference Between Leading and Wonking,” Waddell had some fun analyzing some of our candidates’ back-and-forth in the first 2012 U.S. Presidential debate, and upholds the idea of rallying support while not veering from “True North.”

He brings up an interchange between Obama and Romney last night about taxes and goes on to tackle Obama’s healthcare package :

Obama attempted to attack Romney for the lack of specific details behind some of his plans.  Romney replied that the details were not something he was going to dictate – just the principles.  He cited reducing tax deductions as an example, saying that there were lots of ways to do it.  One way might be to simply put a cap on them – keep all of the existing deductions in place but tell folks their total deductions could not exceed $25,000.  Another approach might be to go through the deductions line by line and keep some, while eliminating others.  His point was that the method was not important so long as the fundamental principle of reducing the deductions was met.  He cited the approach Reagan took when working with Tip O’Neill as an example.

The implication to me was that, had Obama approached Congress and the American people with a set of objectives for health care overhaul, for instance, asserting that he would go along with just about anything Congress wanted so long as it met his critical objectives – no one dropped for pre-existing conditions, no lifetime caps on coverage, access to insurance for everyone, etc…the President would have been more successful.  Going to Congress with a comprehensive plan worked out in incredible detail and shoving it on Congress (and by definition, the American people) on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis resulted in confusion, dissention and a very strong possibility that it will be tossed out.

Waddell, no matter where his political leanings are, makes a wonderful parallel between lean and Obama’s goal of healthcare.  It doesn’t really matter what path you take, it’s arriving at the destination that matters.  Sometimes, you can take shortcuts, and some times you’re going to need to cut and slash your trail.  Either way, if you leave management and lean leaders to the task, and give them some of the reins, instead of shoving a list of directives down their throats, you might get better buy-in from them, and those who work under them.

I think he’s right about the President’s approach toward Congress.  It needs to be more of a “let’s all work this out.  Here’s what we’d like to see happen, how can we make this work so we’ll all be happy?”

Same goes for implementing changes as severe as lean, plant-wide.  It’s a heck of an undertaking, and it requires lots of support.  It’s not about “us versus them,” it’s about being a team and achieving
If only our politicians would learn this, we’d be in a lot better shape.

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