Memo For File CLXXII


Well, isn’t this embarrassing for the folks in charge.

President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again. The company is once again losing market share, and it seems unable to develop products that are truly competitive in the U.S. market.

At least bin Laden’s still dead, or something.

The details are in the article after that first paragraph. They aren’t pretty, but I’d rather concentrate on the human dynamics that come into play when a process has been given great weight, profile and visibility, and after its execution has led to dismal results. I’m seeing a lot of these different behaviors both within and outside of national politics and along with all these different behaviors, I’m seeing misery prolonged well and far beyond the point where people have found it tiresome.

You can tell a lot about a man after he’s attached his identity to a process and been confronted with the realization that it didn’t do what it was supposed to do. To me — although we aren’t too uncertain about how Emperor Barry The First is going to react to this — that is the real story, what is the reaction. Perhaps thousands are possible, and have been shown, but it really all comes down to five major categories I can see. Starting with the most simplistic and working toward the more complex, they are:

One. When the results are inadequate or unsatisfactory, you can simply refuse to acknowledge them.

Two. You can make a decision that fidelity to your failed process is more important than satisfactory results. The “We’d rather leave it busted” response.

Three. You can implement maximum reform with minimal investigation, think of this as “Throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Four. Opposite of the above, the patchwork solution. Up until this threshold of complexity, nobody has to show any curiosity about anything.

Five. A detailed post-mortem, identifying the points of failure, scientifically; no decisions may be made about anything until this process is complete.

Now, not one among these five is perfect; each may be declared unsuitable for this-or-that situation of reform in the aftermath of failure. Even that last one which might seem most thoughtful, it often emerges that people are exasperated with it and (in that particular situation) they have good reason to be. Towing a big boat up the hill with a little car, like DUH, do we really need to do forensic analysis on why it didn’t work? And then of course, at the opposite end of the scale we have the Obama administration: Of course it worked and you’re some kind of racist to say otherwise.

You know, it’s funny. The gang that’s in the White House right now — not just the top guy — has been talking things up about having a more sophisticated methodology for the twenty-first century, it’s all in keeping with the brand label they’ve been selling as suitable successors to the Crawford dimbulb, rebuilding the country in the aftermath of hayseed wreckage with their hip young metro know-it-all-ness. But whenever their processes have shown this need for improvement or replacement, they’ve adhered themselves, as if with industrial-grade contact cement, to One: Refuse to acknowledge failure. We’ve been seeing this over and over again. We saw it in the Biden/Ryan debate. They’re going to do it with the GM thing. They did it with the oil leak in the Gulf thing, they did it with the bomber on Flight 253, remember that?

Reality creates a conflict with the theory, it is reality that must give way to the theory rather than the other way ’round.

I have been privileged to know more than my share of highly successful, highly productive people. Occasionally, I have been privileged to watch them work, and once in awhile, even see them fail. I try to emulate the best of them, and in this effort I have been forced to set a very low bar for myself — I’m not good at it. But I do notice that, even with the casual acquaintances, I did not have to do too much watching before there was an opportunity to watch them deal with a failure. This leads me to believe their successes in life were not due to an ability to avoid failure, but rather with some good habits about how to handle the failure.

Here is what I have noticed: The successful people I have observed in their dealings with their own failures, were not married up with One, Two, Three, Four or even Five. They mixed it up. You might say they were analytical about whether or not to be analytical. If throwing the baby out with the bathwater was the best solution, they did it, and if patchwork was the best solution they went and did that. They relied on their research where it was appropriate, and they went with the ol’ gut instinct when that was right. They crossed the bridge when they came to it. But they did not enmesh their identity in any one of those five, they did ALL five at one time or another.

That’s the biggest difference between them and me, and I’m trying to work on that. I tend to live in the last one, studying everything on occasions where that is perhaps not appropriate, not the surest avenue to eventual success.

But, this is probably the most significant reason why the country requires a change in leadership right now; the most significant out of many. We’re less than a month away from the elections and the incumbent team’s message about why they should be re-elected, going by the debates, is so far limited to “We won’t let the other guys say anything.” Their fans tell me things aren’t so bad, and I simply ask them: Do I have this right? Team Obama says, the way things are going right now, that’s their vision? That is how things should be going? I never get back a straight answer.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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