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Politicians need an HR lesson: teamwork with a focus

November 29, 2013
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The point of my typical article is about how you can improve your business or organization through better human resources practices. Sometimes I extend the scope to matters associated with strategic planning and execution of such plans. However, I’d like to point out that the lessons learned in those environments can be applied to our governing bodies.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as employers when we think of running our country, state or city. We should, because we are. We are owners of this country, and the people who do the strategic planning and day-to-day execution of the plans are our employees.

Politicians come to us, hat in hand, looking for campaign money and our vote, and even our time to get them elected. Unfortunately, once they have that support, they usually cozy up to the bigger contributors to put them over the top. Our voice gets lost in the shuffle. Many of us drop out of the fight. If we think of ourselves as owners of the organization, we may take different path.

If you are a business owner or someone charged with running a business, dropping out usually doesn’t work so well when the operating climate gets bad or messy. Organizations that are successful look for new ways of achieving their goals. One strategy is to step back and go through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to see what we should emphasize or minimize, and consider new conditions on which to focus our resources and energies. Once we figure out the game plan, we set about the execution plan. For success, we need both parts of the process (goals and execution), with heavy emphasis on the execution.

For the SWOT, the plan and the execution process, we have to be confident that we’ve read the environment. In our current political environment, the only thing most people will agree on is the system isn’t working.

Our employees (elected officials) have gone rogue. They are not paying attention to our objectives, they don’t seem to think about how to advance the organization toward the general intent of our constitutions or charters, and they allow extreme elements excessive control.

The history books frequently tell how things go bad when people don’t pay attention to what’s going on or look out for their neighbors. We need our media to give us unbiased information, not entertainment or a slanted report with a hidden agenda. We want them focused on what’s important, not a sound bite from someone grandstanding.

We need the discussion about jobs and ways to get true representation of the people, not hidden organizations or people with money driving the bus. We need congressional districts that are square-sided and legislative rules that work for the people, not the party in power. Weneed to get our politicians, our employees, back on track. Stop all the finger pointing and work toward a healthy society and economy. Then we have an environment where businesses and service organizations understand what to expect, make sound decisions and can be productive — where everyone thrives.

I recently watched a historical video about the Ford Willow Run bomber plant put into production during World War II. It built a B-14 bomber consisting of 1,225,000 parts every 55 minutes, producing nearly 9,000 planes a year. Many can recall getting to the moon first after coming from behind in the space race. How did they do this? It was teamwork with a focus.

To accomplish almost any goal, it requires a concerted effort, working with others involved with the process, and it means thoughtful considerations to assure resources are applied effectively. In a business or any type of organization, it is necessary to agree in general on what is trying to be accomplished.

Then you get to the tactics on how to get there. Can you imagine a football team where the front line plays so that those in the backfield look bad or vice versa? They are not likely to win many games. That is exactly what is happening in our political environment. One part of the team is playing so the other part of the team looks bad — and, by default, they look good — so hopefully they can call the shots going forward.

In a typical operating environment, poor performance is usually addressed with training, discipline and perhaps reassignment or even termination. Selecting the right solution depends on a variety of considerations, one of which is the timeframe. How long can the owners put up with ineffectual employees? I think we are running out of time.

One of the clear paths is to have well-defined goals. Notice I said goals, not goal. It is a very rare organization that has a single goal. For the federal government or any government to focus all the energy on a single strategy is ludicrous. Cutting the budget is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can’t be the only thing. In business if you don’t think more broadly, you can save your way to financial ruin. You still have to think of your products, services and client base. Taking an organization to the brink of failure to get rid of the CEO can undermine the long-term success of the organization.

People with such poor judgment and those who are one-dimensional in their thinking need to be moved out of the organization. We need people who can work together, move the ball forward and take a balanced view to achieving all the goals. If our employees are not working to achieve all our goals, we should terminate them. When politicians forget to act on their prime responsibilities, they should be sent packing and replaced with people who understand the vision and can work as a team to get the job done. That means employers, employees and those who depend on us have to get actively involved.

Ardon Schambers is president of P3HR Consulting and Services LLC in Grand Rapids.

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