The sixth thing you need to know after you are in your job.
Reorganizing Your Shop
I’ve been considering all you’ve told me so far, and it sounds like there might be times when the best thing to do would be to reorganize to shake things up and arouse some needed change. What do I need to know in order to approach such a task in the best possible manner?
Reorganization is a fine art, a favored solution used by leaders of organizations, and used often by Congress and the White House in crises because it is relatively easy to do, and it demonstrates action to the American public. Later, however, there can be unintended consequences.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress and the White House dramatically reorganized the government to consolidate agency analysis, intelligence, and law enforcement functions. They created the Department of Homeland Security, consolidated 28 agencies and some 128,000 people; and they created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) attempting to force the 16 agencies in the intelligence community to share information, a near impossibility before the attacks in NYC.
The failure of the intelligence community in December 2009 to detect the underwear bomber aboard Northwest flight 253, even though the individual was already in an American intelligence computer system, and even though his father had alerted the American embassy in Nigeria about his radical son, suggests that the reorganizations are not working as intended to protect the American public.
One problem is the massive amount of information collected daily by the computers in the intelligence community, the 1.7 billion e-mails and phone calls daily, estimated to be more information each day than the Library of Congress has accumulated in its archives since Congress first built the Library in 1800.
Fernando, as a program manager, reorganization is a way to change the direction of government, especially if, in the process, you are able to remove and replace senior managers opposed to your plans. Reorganizing allows you to redirect your resources to new priorities, shuffle, or bury people not in sync with you, and best of all, reorganizing establishes you as being in charge.
Reorganizing is an easy thing to contemplate. Be wary of the temptation though. Senior political appointees, flag officers in the military, career managers, and even presidents often employ reorganization as a substitute for leadership.
The operating agencies of the government are defenseless against a president with the time to spend on organizational issues. Normally, after the first year a new White House becomes preoccupied with foreign affairs, wars, international finance, and other global issues; however global players on these international issues did not accept Clinton, especially in his first years in office. Hence, he did what other executives do when they cannot lead: he reorganized.
Reorganization demands relentless attention and a battle plan to build support for change.
Advice to Fernando. While it may seem easy at first, reorganizing can be very difficult because employees do not want it, managers do not want it, and most importantly, Congress may not want it.
First, figure out what changes you should make. In your early days in the job, you will not know enough about the organization to reorganize intelligently. You will need to call upon the old hands in your organization. For ideas, you must turn to the career civil servants; and, they always respond. Year after year, in administration after administration, career civil servants are always willing to show their new bosses how to attack the castle.
Two questions to answer. How will you make the reorganization happen? How will you overcome the inevitable resistance?
If you want to redirect or kill an agency, you have a few options, more, if you are president. A president can appoint an incompetent person to run an agency. Such an individual can do can do a great deal to cripple an agency in a short time, including damaging the agency’s Congressional relations, the morale of the staff, and the agency’s performance.
An Englishman once told me that in Britain, when someone contributes a lot of money to a politician, we make him a Lord but we do not put him in charge of anything important. In America, our political leaders too often reward their friends and contributors with appointments to important jobs.
In his first term, President RonaldReagan appointed a dentist to lead the Department of Energy. Some in Reagan’s White House thought DOE’s major role was fuel management, and cited such mundane tasks as printing gasoline rationing stamps as among its key duties.
The dentist was gone from government in a year; but DOE continued performing its main mission designing and manufacturing nuclear weapons for the Department of Defense while managing the Nation’s most important research laboratories including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which provides science and technology solutions to the most pressing national and global security problems.
Another way to bring change to an organization is to appoint a “Type A” aggressive bully to head it. This leader will become a lightning rod for all the hostility engendered by reorganization, allowing the White House and OMB to pull the strings behind the curtain. If the target is a lower level organization, say a division within an agency, OMB will collaborate with the agency’s front office and budget office and slice away at the organization’s resources.
After making these decisions, you must find allies in high places in four groups: your employees, your bosses, officials at OMB, and in Congress. As with all issues when you need support, potential supporters will ask at least two questions before they come on-board.
What’s in it for me?
Will this cause a problem for me?
Answering these questions relative to the four potential support groups will provide some hints on how to obtain that support.
Manage your way to success in your government assignments