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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Will The Heritage Foundation's Trustees Pick An Effective Executive To Make Heritage Great Again?

by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Politics, which is all about power, is about doing the right thing. (Or promising to.) Policy, which is all about governance, is about doing the thing right. Policy, while less glamorous than politics, is more important to our lives.

Arguably, the Heritage Foundation, under the leadership of its former long-term president Ed Feulner, had the greatest policy impact of any nongovernmental organization of its era. Until, that is, Feulner stepped down, making way for fresh leadership.

And then … Heritage became The Little Engine That Couldn’t.

Heritage hired, in Feulner’s place, a beloved conservative icon. While of unimpeachable character, he, it turned out, possessed the disposition -- and management skills -- of a United States Senator.

Senators, notoriously, are fashioned from legislative, not executive, timber. Moreover, Senators come from that branch of government conscientiously designed to stop impetuous legislation rather than to innovate.

Heritage Foundation also then branched from strict policy formulation and education into grass roots advocacy. This was an interesting move: Heritage Action as rival to MoveOn Civic Action. In theory, this held promise. Yet as America’s greatest yogi, Yogi Berra, once observed, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is.”

Heritage’s advocacy offshoot wound up something of a renegade force. The Heritage brand was used to threaten to put into question the conservative bona fides of many elected officials, quite a few of whom were only slightly to the left of Genghis Khan. That malcontent stance nearly vaporized an immense, hard earned, reservoir of goodwill on Capitol Hill, dramatically reducing Heritage’s policy influence.

According to the National Journal at the height of this fray the
Republican Study Committee—a group of 172 conservative House members—has barred Heritage Foundation employees from attending its weekly meeting in the Capitol. The conservative think tank has been a presence at RSC meetings for decades and enjoys a close working relationship with the committee and its members. But that relationship is now stretched thin, sources say, due to a series of policy disputes that culminated with a blowup … [T]he move to effectively kick Heritage out of the weekly RSC meeting represents "a seismic shift" in the relationship between the two institutions, according to one high-ranking Capitol Hill aide.Heritage was (and is) chartered “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” Instead, Heritage -- with some noteworthy exceptions -- turned itself into something like a National Museum of Conservatism.

There remain some excellent research fellows in Heritage's stable. And in time the lost trust can be rebuilt. Heritage can be made great again.

But only if Heritage's board makes the right choice for its next president.

Now in search of a new president, Heritage Foundation is at an inflection point. If the trustees get it right Heritage could well become more potent than ever.

Will its trustees rise to the occasion?

Or will they, like last time, fall into Virtue Signaling, defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue: it's noticeable how often virtue signaling consists of saying you hate things -- standing on the sidelines saying how awful the situation is does nothing except massage your ego by virtue signaling.

There are a lot of good, smart, people on the Heritage Foundation board. Several are personal acquaintances. Yet to restore Heritage as a transformational agent its trustees will have to do something more than good. They must do something extraordinary: find someone who fuses the skills of a businessperson with those of a policy sophisticate. That's a rare breed.

Heritage obviously needs someone who can effect a turnaround. This means undertaking a deep restructuring. That, in turn, likely calls for a transitional leader, much as when Cato brought in banker John Allison to serve between its founder Ed Crane and current president Peter Goettler.

Heritage has grown bloated by success. Time for it to restructure so that it can face the future.

Why a businessperson?

Steve Jobs, as reported at Quartz, “saved Apple--and Nike--with the same piece of advice.”

Therein hangs a tale and a moral.When Nike named Mark Parker their CEO in 2006, one of the first things Parker did was call Apple CEO Steve Jobs for business advice.

It might not have seemed it, but at the time Nike was struggling.

Yes, they had a successful brand. But they were failing to fit their digital strategy into their line of literally hundreds of thousands of products.

During their call, Steve Jobs gave one piece of advice that stuck with Parker:

Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

— Steve Jobs

“He was absolutely right,” said Parker. “We had to edit.”

Instead of going into another product line for technology, Nike stuck to what they did best while partnering with Apple. The result was Nike+, reportedly one of the most successful Nike campaigns ever.

Steve Jobs didn’t just give advice—he lived it.

Jobs was fired from Apple but returned as the company was floundering in 1997. His first order of business? Cut.

By the end of that year, Jobs had killed almost 70% of Apple’s products. A year later, the company had gone from losses of $1.04 billion to a $309 million profit. Jobs saw Apple as distracted by opportunities. And while opportunities seem innocent enough, we often forget the commitments that come with them: energy, time, and money.
Successful businesspeople naturally possess a sense for this. That sense tends to be less native to policy conservatives whose disposition is to … conserve. Many policy proposals float around for years, sometimes decades, in a kind of zombie state, neither dead nor alive. (There’s a reason that Congressional staff and career civil servants are sometimes called “The Permanent Government.”) These rarely are really well adapted to new presenting opportunities or challenges.

That said, Heritage needs a businessperson who also has enjoyed a long immersion in the policy realm. Washington is a web of relationships, a game of Three-Dimensional Chess, and, sometimes, even a House of Cards. To adopt a memorable phrase by former Sen. John Warner, Washington is “a byzantine thicket full of potholes and quicksand.”

It's not enough to do the right thing. One also has to do the thing right. This requires domain expertise. Hence the need for a hybrid.

To their credit successful elected officials are adept at finding practical ways of accommodating the popular will. And that means translating to the voters how new legislation, or repealing old legislation, will affirmatively improve their condition. Doctrinal purity alone is not enough.

Part of the genius of those rare businesspeople who have also assimilated the Mysterious Ways of Politics and Policy is an instinctive ability to “sell the benefits and not the features.” When someone asks you what time it is she doesn’t wish for a tutorial on how to build a watch. She just wants to know the time.

Same with policy. Many policy people are so enamored of the mechanics of their designs that they forget that the customers -- directly officials, indirectly voters -- mostly care about how the proposed policy will benefit their lives, and only generally how. Most sane voters' eyes glaze over when confronted with baroque explanations of the inner workings of policy. They just want to know what it will do and that it will work.

America was constituted as a republic, not a democracy. We elect -- i.e. hire -- our officials to figure out how to, for instance, create a climate conducive to general prosperity. A successful policy institute needs to learn to present the benefits, more than its policy ticktock, to the public as well as the policy-makers. Hence the need for a businessperson/policy hybrid figure.

Last but perhaps most important of all, will the Heritage trustees follow the shrewd counsel of Peter Drucker, the greatest management guru ever? After all, Heritage extols free enterprise. Drucker is an icon of that, and for good reason.

Drucker provided the keys to effectiveness in his classic work, The Effective Executive:What all these effective executives have in common is the practices that make effective whatever they have and whatever they are. And these practices are the same, whether the effective executive works in a business or in a government agency….

There are essentially five such practices—five such habits of the mind that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:
  1. Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.
  2. Effective executives focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work. They start out with the question, “What results are expected of me?” rather than with the work to be done, let alone with its techniques and tools.
  3. Effective executives build on strengths—their own strengths and the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.
  4. Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first—and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.
  5. Effective executives, finally, make effective decisions. They know that this is, above all, a matter of system—of the right steps in the right sequence. They know that an effective decision is always a judgment based on “dissenting opinions” rather than on “consensus on the facts.” And they know that to make many decisions fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental, decisions. What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.
Will the Heritage Foundation trustees seek out and enlist an accomplished hybrid businessperson/policy maven to serve as an interim leader to turn Heritage around? Will they seek out someone who will get rid of “the crappy stuff” and focus on “the good stuff”? Will they select someone who has demonstrated that he or she has the five “habits of the mind” that make an executive effective?

If they get it right the trustees will make Heritage great again. If they get it right the Heritage Foundation is likely to renew itself as a powerful force for making America great again. Many of us who long have admired, and still do, the Heritage Foundation as a force for good are hoping its trustees pick an effective executive.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Forbes, Heritage Foundation, pick, effective executive, Make heritage Great Again To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 2:10 PM - Post Link


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