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What If Romney Had Won

Written by David Gee

We’ll never know what kind of President Mitt Romney would have been, but a just released 138-page document does reveal what his White House would have looked like. And it would have looked a lot like a consulting firm, or as the Romney Readiness Project tells us, “like a holding company with three main divisions.”

On May 29, Romney’s candidate’s transition What If Romney Had Wonorganization, known as R2P,  released the report detailing how 500 people prepared for a potential Romney victory and an extensive and immediate Day 1 White House makeover.

There’s not much value – or point – in rehashing the last presidential election and trying to determine if Romney would have made a better leader than a second term Barack Obama.

However, I do think there is value in looking at this report from an organizational change perspective, to see if there are any lessons or takeaways for the rest of us.

The non-profit R2P, Inc., or Mitt Romney Inc. as one journalist called it, chaired by former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt and run by former General Motors chief financial officer Christopher Liddell, prepared a detailed plan for Romney’s first 200 days in office.

The plan included steps to repeal Obamacare,  as well as develop a tax reform plan and roll back federal regulations.

Zeke Miller of TIME writes in this post that the Romney plan divided the White House into three main divisions: “Care & Feeding Offices,” like speechwriting, “Policy Offices,” like the National Security Council, and “Packaging & Selling Offices,” like the office of the press secretary.

What If Romney Had Won

Slide in the R2P Romney PowerPoint

Among the recommendations for the Romney administration:

  • Corporate-style training seminars to teach management skills to appointees and nominees.
  • A plan to restructure White House operations to suit Romney’s corporate management style, with clear deliverables.
  • Detailed flow charts delineating how information and decisions were disseminated through the administration to achieve “unity.”
  • Plans to evaluate Cabinet secretaries’ performance by “systematically assessing the efforts of their departments in contributing to [Romney's] priorities and objectives, perhaps by a newly created  ”deputy chief of staff for Cabinet oversight.”

Also, before the election, Willis said hundreds of staffers held “practice drills” so they would be prepared to quickly infiltrate federal agencies and explore policies and procedures for the new administration to change.

Another team apparently worked in “the bunker,” a secure room in a federal office building where potential Cabinet and senior staff nominees and appointees were vetted.

By Election Day, Willis writes, nearly 20 researchers and lawyers had prepared Romney to select his entire Cabinet and more than 25 senior White House staffers, as well as deputies for key departments and agency heads.

Clearly this was not going to be business as usual, but would it have worked? Again, let’s not get in to it from a political perspective in terms of ideologies and campaign platforms. Could it have worked from an organizational perspective? Or would the culture change simply have proven to be too much, too soon?

Would the culture change(s) simply have proven to be too much, too soon?

I once consulted for a client that had a very successful run but was going through some profound changes. The company was trying to reinvent itself at the same time preparations were being made for the exit of the long-time CEO and company founder.

The person to whom he entrusted the future of his company was a smart and slick VP, who also happened to be very insecure and was a stereotypical micro-manager.

So as a show of power and influence, the VP took a workforce that had long been used to lots of autonomy and independence, and demanded basically that everything now funnel through him. The new boss had a vision, which is good, but he was a real my way or the highway type.

And it didn’t work. The staff basically mutinied and ran the VP and would-be CEO out, leaving the wounded company leader to begin his succession plan anew.

Of course every business and organization needs to evolve and grow and change to stay relevant and productive and efficient. However, successful change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people problems arise.

Successful change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people problems arise.

My consulting client failed to recognize this. He had a bunch of conversations with himself and the board – in a vacuum – and then foisted them on the organization. And it resulted in failure.

How would the Romney White House and all of its potential fundamental changes fared? Was selling change a sustainable strategy for success? It wasn’t for the election. Would it have been for staffers?

Change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with it. Did Romney have the right recipe? Does your organization?

We’d love to hear about how you have successfully managed fundamental and profound change in your culture and the way you do business.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Jim Lotz

    It seems although you say you want to leave the politics out of it you certainly come across as partisan. The consulting engagement from one client does not make a study. Let’s face the facts: the Federal government is chocked full of waste and redundancy. Bringing in a process where individuals are held accountable and measured would be a welcome change to our government. It’s all speculation at this point but my guess we would be seeing a more transparent federal government and an economy on the mend.

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  2. David Gee

    I am always somewhat fascinated, and in this case decidedly curious, about what kinds of things people read into posts that are even slightly political.

    Specifically Jim, what did I say that came across as partisan? I didn’t make a single statement about what I think of the performance of President Obama, good or bad, and I didn’t give my opinion about Mitt Romney’s platform or politics. I merely was talking about his very detailed plan to change the way the White House is run.

    I am not – and never was – a Romney fan just for the record. And like many, I am disappointed in what Barack Obama has accomplished. Or hasn’t.

    I think the partisan mess we have in Congress though would have hampered anyone we put in as president, no matter which side of the aisle they represent. And all of the above matters not at all for the purposes of my post!

    If you are reading a particular slant into my piece, or see some kind of subtext, I am not sharing your view.

    As for your contention that one case does not make a study, well, I do share that view Jim! And again, I’m not sure what you are reading into my post since I never used the word or words study, or case study, nor would I.

    Most organizational development experts, and I am not one, do say successful change management requires the involvement of the people affected by the changes. I had a real world experience supporting that contention and I shared that. Nothing more substantial than that was meant or intended by it.

    I am glad for Staffing Talk readers to look at our posts thoughtfully and critically. But I think you took my post a little too seriously Jim.

    I was just trying to start a conversation about Mitt Romney’s specific plan to change the White House as a workplace, and see if there was a broader discussion to be had about organizational change that we all could benefit from.

    Judging from the paucity of comments though, I don’t think a whole lot of people shared my interest in the subject. Thanks for your comment Jim.

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  3. Dan Johnson

    A lot more executives than you may think are interested in this subject. During the recession and the hopeful recovery, most executives are struggling to get Change Management right as we acquire companies and attempt to re-inspire our tired and overworked staffs. We could all take lessons from the transition thinking of candidate Romney and his best thinkers.

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    • Gregg Dourgarian

      Agreed Dan. Change management is tough, and the innovation economy is making change faster every day. I struggle with it with my own company and in introducing new software and processes into client companies.

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  4. Michael Hayes

    I have thought about this also. But with the way we elect and allow Congress virtually lifetime employment, there is very little a President can change what happens in 4 years. Unless we have term limits on Government and more importantly the Staff, along with a 5 year waiting period to be a lobbyist, we will have the same result. Service in Government should be looked on as a penance not an opportunity to get rich.

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  5. David Gee

    Republican, Democrat, honestly people, what does that have to do with this post?! This has nothing to do with what kind of president Mitt Romney would have been. It has to do with the challenge of change, and the plans Romney and a cast of 500 had for a White House organizational makeover. Thanks for the love though for Gregg and other readers who came to my rescue and see some value in this NON-POLITICAL discussion!

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    • Gregg Dourgarian

      In their defense David, absence speaks loudly. Sometimes it is all we can hear.

      What does one hear for example in the absence of timely reporting by the New York Times and the rest of MSM on the Benghazi coverup, the IRS scandal, and the DOJ?

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  6. Michael Hayes

    Well since it went political…how about this. Any business owner in America that thinks he is better off under President Obama is either under educated or getting business from his awful spending habits. If you mention Warren Buffet…he is senile.

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