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 organization, 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.
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.