Monday, December 12, 2016

Political Thoughts

Docked in Grenada:  Much talk about Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, as a possible SecState. Part of that talk has been biographical, including that he's worked at Exxon seemingly forever.

I have no unique opinion on his fitness for office, clearly he's a talented guy to end up CEO of the world's largest corporation. But his promotion up through the Exxon ranks reminded me of received wisdom from my Management prof days.

It is a truism in Management theory, borne out in practice, that firms promote from within if they are doing well, are seen as market leaders. The reasoning being "it ain't broke, so we won't fix it." Tillerson is an example of this.

On the other hand, if a firm's board of directors believes it is not fulfilling its potential, it is routine practice to bring in an outsider as CEO. That outsider is someone not committed to the unsatisfactory status quo, a "new broom," a force for change.

At State Tillerson would be a new broom, and might be responsible for quite a number of retirements among the striped pants diplomatic corps. It isn't clear whether he has much experience as a change agent. I daresay he'd have to deal with quite a lot of passive resistance among hard-to-fire careerists.

A key thing Trump and the GOP Congress need to achieve is to simplify and shorten the process of letting go unsatisfactory civil servants for cause. As it stands today, firing is so difficult that most bosses in the federal bureaucracy don't bother to try. We all suffer the consequences of this particular malaise.