Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Newt is Old Newt

The following is an excerpt from my 2008 book, "Naked Emperors". This is the opening scene of Gingrich's inner circle critiquing his management style.

One of the issues about "New Newt" is that Gingrich is "new" every time he wakes up. He lives in a world that is the opposite of "Ground Hog Day". Gingrich resets his personality, his perception of reality, and his priorities as if nothing occurred before. It exhausted his staff and destroyed his own revolution.

The book excerpt follows:

PROLOGUEJune 17, 1991

"Newtworld is in trouble"; deadpanned Dan Meyer followed by a round of laughter.

The Quality Management Awareness Session was going well. The four-hour session, tailored for Gingrich's three major organizations (“Newtworld” was referred to by Gingrich’s staff as a large amusement park with various theme areas: GOPAC, the Minority Whip's Staff, and the Personal Office), included several workshops that always netted results. This was the power of a Philip Crosby Associates (PCA) course; it mixed fun with brutal insight. From the fun came a comfort among attendees to identify and deal with their "awkward realities". From dealing with these realities came commitment to do something about them.

Thirty minutes into the session with the Minority Whip's staff the room was energized. "We've got work to do," noted Tony Blankley. Everyone nodded in emphatic agreement. Linda Nave and Hardy Lott quietly made notes based on the flip chart at the front of the room.

The list, generated through a structured brainstorming approach, was indeed stark. It had been developed first from individual worksheets, leading to a brief discussion among groups of twos and threes, then on to the entire group of eleven identifying and explaining their "biggest problems" facing the Whip's organization.

"The good news", I began, "is that your list is similar to the problems facing every type of organization and corporation, worldwide. Remember the fire fighting cycle we started with":

"We find ourselves in this vicious cycle of being surprised by the unexpected and the unplanned. We cease to manage. We only react. We don’t have time to management because we are always firefighting. Because we are firefighting we don’t have time to solve the underlying problems that may help us prevent future fires. Guess what? By not taking the time to prevent problems, even more fires break out! The circle then begins again, with even less time to do what we want. This constant firefighting costs us time and money, it lowers morale, and it ultimately impacts our organization's ability to meet our goals and the needs of our customers."

“Only by using prevention methods can we ever stop this cycle. We are going to learn how prevention is one of the main principles of Quality Management. These principles have given others the ability to break free of this firefighting cycle. You can do the same thing here.”

“What happens when the boss is a pyromaniac?" Dan Meyer queried. The room resounded in applause and laughter.

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