Do You Believe Business Can Step In To Make Government More Effective?
Can business step in to make government more effective?
From the outside, these two institutions may look very different, but at their core, there is so much they have in common. How far apart are these worlds, really?
Because business has suffered some well-known, controversial, and ethical wounds and maintained some long-lasting scars in its own world, it’s easy to imagine – and expect – the backlash when representatives of the business world enter the world of government. The private sector now meets the public sector. The true critics may hiss at the territories overlapping while others watch with a mindful eye.
There will always be opponents of these two streams crossing as the contention is that the political arena and world cannot be operated as if it were a business.
“Business and government have more attributes in common than those which might set them apart.”
That same assertion came up this week when it was announced that the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be leading a “SWAT team to fix government with business ideas” in a newly established White House Office of American Innovation. This new team has been tasked with harnessing and infusing the strategic knowledge of its members into all-things American government, to maximize operational innovation. To do that, the SWAT team is made up of well-known technology business leaders including Tim Cook (Apple), Ginny Rometty (IBM), and Elon Musk (Tesla), among others. The effort sought out technology and data-driven business leaders in order to tap into those exact specialties to effectuate innovation in the entire government platform.
Many people may argue that business has no business being in government as the operations are different beasts entirely, which cannot be addressed in the same manner, approach, or execution. There are concerns over Kushner’s own statement that government should be run like “a great American company.” Granted, if one states that a particular sector of business would be best suited to work in government, utilizing their exact steps and methods, others may say “no, that makes no sense,” and dismiss that idea. And for good reason.
But it isn’t the specific approaches and strategies of business that might benefit the public sector. It is, instead, the overall general approach, which transitions into the utilization of the best tools and resources at-hand, that will make the difference.
Although each of their faces has evolved since their inceptions as disciplines, business and government have common roots. You remove everything you see today from your impression of each – the characters, the ethical lapses, the power grabs and takeovers, the conglomerate mentally of deal-making in as many sectors as possible – and what is left? The true tenets of business.
These true tenets are about analysis and understanding, considering the entity strengths and weaknesses internally and its opportunities and threats externally, while striving toward the best strategic moves to satisfy the stakeholders and maintain healthy fiscal composure going forward.
Does this breakdown of attributes sound like anything that is really overwhelmingly only either business or government? The answer is “no.” Both sectors should operate in this manner.
Also, when it comes down to it, the stakeholders are your boss in both business and government – stockholders and customers in the former, and citizens and service recipients in the latter.
“Will the traditional and storied discipline of business be able to avoid the often sluggish, mostly bureaucratic, and sometimes corrupt operations of politics, without bringing its own baggage?”
Beyond its own slip-ups of the past, business gets a (poorly-diagnosed) bad rap for the ill-fated missteps of the freshman Trump Administration, seen as seemingly proving people’s charge that business should stay out of politics.
But business has nothing to do with the erratic, unfortunate, and unprecedented first months of the administration.
When it comes to lapses in judgement or poor execution of strategy, like many other institutions or disciplines, it’s not the institution or discipline of business that tarnishes its own credibility. Usually, it is the discipline which is betrayed by the practitioner.
The shortcomings of the last 2+ months are the result of a President of short temperament, with the need to overcompensate, who’s surrounded by yes-men and women who cower to backward ideology and sloppy execution.
An ineffective business person or mind shouldn’t be utilized as an example — or the epitome, for that matter — to condemn the inclusion of business as the driver of government.
True business mentality is almost the complete opposite of such poor execution. It, instead, exudes respect for the operational environment; maintains composure enough to assess the problems and resources at hand; monitors the important metrics to assess performance; compares performance to that of other entities of varying forms and competition; respects the pre-established relationships with partners even if changes are called for; holds steady confidence so as to not be swayed by insecurity; heightens curiosity to listen in order to learn; demonstrates respect for the history of the going concern as well as its future; and practices self-awareness enough to know what it doesn’t know, among other things.
The Kushner team seems to be the first semblance of that mentality in the White House.
“An ineffective business person or mind shouldn’t be utilized as an example — or the epitome, for that matter — to condemn the inclusion of business as a driver of government.”
Granted, there are some differences between business and government. Where with business, for the most part, you may be impacting only one segment of a customer’s life – whatever it may be your product or service covers – in government, there is much more at stake. It is a different beast. The actions by government can impact someone profoundly with the stroke of a pen on an executive order or bill, whether it is impacting his or her healthcare, environmental safety, national security, or infrastructure among other needs, domestically. On a greater, global scale, government has to tread carefully as it has an easy capacity to impact disaster assistance, human rights, peace agreements, nuclear arms regulation and war, with other countries. Government is represented everywhere whereas a business is not…yet.
Obviously, stating government can benefit from a business mindset doesn’t mean you’re going to send a person in a three-piece suit to fight a war. To the detractors: Let’s be realistic. Like with most entities, one knows when to maintain the top specialists in certain areas. (Granted, Trump appointed Steve Bannon to the National Security Council. But, as has been noted above, this is not the epitome of the correct business mindset to run government. At all.) This post most-certainly does not condone this. It’s about utilizing the specialists in their fields.
We should all understand that. Overall, there are more lives at stake in government than there are with any one business. That needs to be respected.
Part of business is doing due diligence and assessing steps as the business proceeds. It is imperative that any business person do the same in the governmental environment, with even more care, understanding, and respect.
But, again, at their roots, business and government have more attributes in common than those which might set them apart.
We can only hope this White House team shares that understanding.
Will the traditional and storied discipline of business be able to avoid the often sluggish, mostly bureaucratic, and sometimes corrupt operations of politics, without bringing its own baggage?
That’s what we’ll see and that’s what we’ll hope.
So, in toeing the line of yay versus nay on this issue, what do you think?
Where Do You Stand?