Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hubris, Obamacare, and the Magic Phrase

By Pascal Dennis

Our regular readers may recall, I'm a big proponent of Lean in the civil service.

We need excellence in government, and the Lean Business system is, in my view, the perfect vehicle.

The obstacles are many, not the least of which is, the lack of competition.

If you need a licence, permit, or any government-provided document or service, where you gonna go?

There's another obstacle, in full view, in the Obamacare fiasco.

The roll-out of the new Federal health insurance marketplace -- the 'biggest start-up in the world' -- has been scuppered by an ancient antagonist, hubris.

Hubris means arrogance, or over-bearing pride. Hubris prevents us from saying, 'I don't know, 'I'm not sure', or 'Let's bring in some folks who've done this before'.

'I don't know' is a magic phrase, which opens doors, engages people, and makes growth possible. 'I don't know' is an important element of hansei, or humble reflection.

Pretending you know, when you don't, closes doors and makes improvement & growth become impossible. Trust is undermined.

(In fact, wise leaders often stay mum, even when they do know! Not giving your team the answer, and letting them learn for themselves, can provide superb learning!)

Check out the Washington Post's damning investigation of how the White House repeatedly ignored warnings that it was headed for disaster.

In May 2010, senior advisor & Harvard prof, David Cutler, warned the White House,

"You're running the biggest start-up in the world, and don't have anyone who has ever run a start-up, or even run a business..."

Cutler's warning, like so many others, was ignored.

Evidently, senior White House staff lacked the courage to admit, 'I don't know. Let's bring in some folks folk do know.'

And so, dear friends & colleagues in both the private & public sectors, let's remember the magic phrase:

I don't know...



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