Replace Fiscal Cliff with an Organizational Mirror

For everyone who ever voted for a politician promising to make government run more like a business, congratulations your dream has been realized by the post-election theatrics shoved under the “Fiscal Cliff” catchphrase. Perhaps this public display of dysfunction and lack of courageous vision will scare companies straight away from the type of behaviors that have plagued US corporations for decades.

The post-fiscal cliff headlines range from predicting the emergency deal will help the housing recovery to uncertainty about how it will impact alternative minimum tax to “Nothing Really Has Been Fixed.” Just as it happens too frequently in business, your bias and rooting interest matters more than best outcomes. The public posturing that brought the US government to near crisis ended not with meaningful compromise but with partial selling out by all to meet a deadline. Because DC’s deal was reached by selling out it allows both sides of the argument to second guess the other should anything go wrong.  Second guessing has become one of the most practiced of all corporate behaviors which is why so few tough decisions ever get executed.

Unless participants recognize the whole of any institution is greater than even its most significant sums not only will they shy away from tough decisions they can’t even reach compromise because doing so minimizes a constituent (be that constituent a business unit or a political party).  Without embracing the risk that accompanies every big decision participants can only revert to small thinking and smaller actions–the enemy of progress.  When humility is replaced by the masquerade of pretending to be the smartest or most in-control guy in the room, participants can only talk at one another, rather than listening to and working with peers. Elected officials guiding their every action by polls and the next campaign are as destructive as managers calculating their every move to earn a bonus or promotion are to any business.

More often than not I’m brought in to companies to solve these problems which is done through a simple process: change the person or change the person.  

What I can’t yet figure out is: Why do we keep electing politicians who embody the very worst of Corporate America’s characteristics?

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