Managing the Conversation for Change

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.—Niccolo Machiavelli

If national elections in the United States are about one thing, that thing is change. We change from liberal to conservative, from peace to war, from a strong domestic commitment stressing economic equity to a commitment to economic disenfranchisement. We give entitlements to the poor or we give tax breaks to the wealthy. We secure the futures of our working class or gild the parachutes of CEOs and CFOs, and grant them pardons when they do to their employees what our government cannot. We vote. We change.

The thing is, you can go three or four presidents and – unless there’s a war or an economic collapse – not notice a thing. Sure, you may get a little more or a little less money back from your taxes, and there is the occasional media sensation or scandal, but as long as your working, life goes on; the paychecks come in; you fill your car with gas and take your vacations and love your family and take this wonderful American routine for granted.

It should come as little surprise then, that Americans tend to wallow in the rut of secure sameness, holding on to the day-to-day like a toddler to a binky. The times that allow this static lifestyle are numbing, so much so that politicians and purveyors cannot resist taking advantage of a lulled populace, picking our futures from our pockets like back alley thieves.

Indeed, it could be said that some Americans get to choose change, while others have change thrust upon them.

Just because Bush and Cheney have run our country over the cliff in a barrel of mismanaged change does not mean we are doomed to to splat like Wile E. Coyote on the stark floor of the Painted Desert, while they peer over the edge and dusts off their hands in satisfactory glee.

Admittedly, the news of the day is not good: Wall Street is teetering; McCain has been bumped up by throngs of white men in love with the legs and lies of Sarah “Peggy Hill” Palin (or her husband); gas is over four dollars a gallon again. But all that is what happens when “change” is unfurled like a “Mission Accomplished” banner. It’s not change we can believe in; it’s change they want us to believe. It’s the kind of change where things are really just the same, which is what they really want. Our kind of change, Barack’s change, really scares them, and their chants of “burn baby burn” (oops!) I mean “drill baby drill”, in turn, scare us.

I may just be paranoid, but I fear that Palin especially – with her neocon church beliefs – is using words like “some of these CEOs and top management people” as code when she says they are “addicted to other people’s money.” I fear that Palin will foment an atmosphere of anti-Semitism disguised as classism. That is why we have to pull together behind Barack Obama.

Obama and Biden are challenging us to believe in change and be their agents in affecting it. If this change is going to happen, we must make it happen. Unlike the current administration that just wants us to go shopping and fill our cars with four dollar a gallon gasoline, the Democratic ticket wants us to have a hand in determining the course of our own democracy. What a radical idea!

“…creating change starts with creating a vision for change and then empowering individuals to act as change agents to attain that vision. The empowered change management agents need plans that provide a total systems approach, are realistic, and are future oriented. Change management encompasses the effective strategies and programs to enable those change agents to achieve the new vision.” from Managing Change: An Overview, by Nancy M. Lorenzi, PhD and Robert T. Riley, PhD, published by JAMIA, Mar-Apr 2000

Unlike the populist politics of Obama, I think that when Bush 41 had his vision of “A New World Order” he was counting on the participation of multinational corporations, NATO, the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank to help create it. They are who he wanted to “empower.” Not the people. God no.

Forty-one’s legacy staff in Bush 43’s White House wanted to continue in that direction. Even after 9/11 happened, they still went to Haliburton and Blackwater to help fight this stupid war in Iraq. They didn’t ask anything out of us except to “go shopping.”According to a 2007 article published in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (who conspiracy folks think are in on this whole mess), “George W. Bush has revived George H. W. Bush’s call for a ‘new world order’ — by creating, in effect, a new new world order.” But even this cabal isn’t sure the world is ready. “Because the U.S. government is viewed as having undercut many global governance structures in recent years, any effort by this administration to rewrite the rules of the global game is naturally seen as yet another attempt by Washington to escape the constraints of international law.”

Included in the JAMIA “Managing Change” article there is a table entitled “Reasons for Contemporary System Failures” which lists ways in which change implementation fails in a corporate environment. One does not have to look far to find the failures of the Bush-Cheney administration in their efforts to change the USA’s approach to global politics. Of course, these (in italics) are just my associations and interpretations. Feel free to use your own:




Ineffective outgoing communication

Ineffective listening

President’s August 2001 Daily Briefing: “Bin Laden Determined to Attack”

Phoenix FBI

Pet Goat

Failure to effectively prepare the staff for the new system

Condi and the NSA

Differences with Colin Powell, Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill


Hostile culture within the information systems organization

Facts don’t matter; politics do. We’ll make the facts fit.

The Cheney push to reclassify documents, including a “new” kind of classification

Outing Valerie Plame

Hostile culture toward the information systems area

They don’t have to know what we do, just what we say.

We’ll make the press afraid to speak against us.

No strategies to nurture or grow a new culture

Could have used the opportunity after 9/11 to reach out to the rest of the world and unite to find a way to resolve the terrorist situation in a statesman like manner. Instead, things like “Dead or Alive,” “Bring it on!”

Also, dissolving the Iraqi Army, not guarding the borders. Basically not having a strategy for peace.

Underestimation of complexity

Missed deadlines and cost overruns

It’s hard to be president.

Surplus to deficit

How many billions has this war cost us?

Lost credibility

Mission Accomplished.

Katrina: You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie.

Medals for the idiots who planned and mishandled Iraq.

Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson

Scope creep

Failure to define and maintain original success criteria

Find WMDs

Welcomed as liberators

It will pay for itself

Failure to renegotiate deadlines and resources if criteria do change

Refusal to deal with Iran

Refusal to re-evaluate relationship with Russia

Refusal to acknowledge the bad intelligence, even before March ‘03

Refusal to allow the UN inspectors to do their jobs


No clear vision for the change

Holding on to the Cold War mentality of an evil enemy that must be vanquished.

Holding that everyone longs for democracy and freedom – also a Cold War legacy

Unintended consequences

5,000 dead soldiers

Longest war the US has ever fought

Loss of credibility in the rest of the world

Shifting allegiances to try to find a suitable ally among the sects of Baghdad.

Huge deficit.

Ineffective reporting structure

Abu Ghraib

Reporting to Cheney and not the Pres.

Staff turnover

Staff competency

Provision of a technical “fix” to a management problem

Gonzales and Rove firing Federal Prosecutors

Visiting Ashcroft in the hospital to get his approval for illegal wiretaps rather than agree with the acting AG

Lack of full support of “boss(es)”

Powell was against it;

Lack of support of the American people, and we are the bosses

Roles and responsibilities not clearly defined or understood by everyone

Scott McClellan

Richard Clarke

The US Military

W did not ask us to play our part; he felt as though he didn’t need it. “Go shopping,” he said.

Several people vying to be “in charge”

Cheney, Ashcroft, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld (remember Rummy’s wanting to co-opt all intelligence for the DoD?)

Adequate resources not available from the beginning

Rumsfeld’s refusal to acknowledge the need for more initial forces – “You got to war with the army you have, not the army you want.”

Not enough intelligence, both the spy kind and the brain kind

Failure to benchmark existing practices

Well, there have been benchmarks. They just haven’t been met.

Inability to measure success

“When they stand up we’ll stand down.”

They do keep moving the line lower. Can you say “everybody limbo!”?


System too technology oriented

Too complicated for simple minds

Poor procurement

Lure of the leading (bleeding) edge

Democracy anywhere will bring democracy everywhere.

We fight them there so we won’t have to fight them here.

A small force ought to be enough to do it.

Inadequate testing

Did anyone think this through, I mean with their brains?


Inadequate or poor-quality training

Poor timing of training—too early or too late

Leadership issues

Leader too emotionally committed

“Bring ‘em on!”

Leader’s time over committed

It’s hard to read stories to kids and saw logs in Crawford.

Too much delegation without control

Haliburton, Blackwater and Dick Cheney

Failure to get ownership in the effort

No call to join in the effort. Just go shopping.

Leader’s political skills weak


“Lying” to get initial approval


Spurious ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda

Nigerian yellowcake

Downing Street’s “Dodgy Dossier”

Again, the italics are mine. The rest is from: J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2000 Mar–Apr; 7(2): 116–124. Copyright © 2000, American Medical Informatics Association

Like I said, these are just my ideas. I’m curious to know if you have your own. Let me know. Even the briefest internet search brings a handful of past news stories illustrating the issue of Bush trying to shift us to this change of his:

Members of the Bush administration keep talking about what a promising moment for peace this is. The suggestion is that the departure of Saddam Hussein, and the arrival of a new Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, has changed everything. It is hard to see precisely how Saddam Hussein was preventing the Israelis and Palestinians from making peace. What has really changed is President Bush himself.

“Suddenly he is taking a strong personal interest in the peace process, and putting his own personal political capital on the line. But what motivates him is still a bit of a mystery.”

Bush’s change of direction

by Jon Leyne
BBC State Department correspondent

“Commentators have fixated on the invocation of ‘preemptive’ military action to counter enemies seeking ‘the world’s most destructive technologies.’ Yet this is not the crazy idea it is often portrayed to be. To enforce a robust nonproliferation regime, preemption might actually make sense in certain cases. The real problem in the new strategy is not preemption but narrowness — the focus on three wretched governments and terrorists, and the emphasis on force, coercion, and selective treaty enforcement as the main instruments of national policy.
Conservative defense intellectuals and officials deserve credit for highlighting the fact that effective nonproliferation requires changes in the policies or governments of states unwilling to abide by international laws and norms. Yet they then proceed to make the reverse mistake, looking only at the outlaws and ignoring the challenges posed by nuclear weapons in general. So long as some states are allowed to possess nuclear weapons legitimately and derive the benefits that flow from them, then other states in the system will want them too — including, perhaps, the successors to the governments the Bush administration currently opposes. The proliferation threat thus stems from the existence and possession of nuclear weapons and theft-prone materials, not merely from the intentions of today’s ‘axis of evil.’

“The nonproliferation radicals recognize that the good guys of today can become the bad guys of tomorrow. So they say the United States must retain and ‘upgrade’ an enormous strategic arsenal forever to deter or defeat any adversary. At the same time, they argue that the new bad guys (rogue states and terrorists), unlike the old bad guys (the Soviet Union), cannot be deterred and contained and so must be eliminated quickly. The Bush administration thus essentially favors a strategy of repeated regime change plus a large, steadily modernizing nuclear arsenal.

“This bleak vision makes sense only if the determination to retain deployed nuclear arsenals forever does not exacerbate proliferation risks, and if the weapons being retained provide a necessary, usable, and effective deterrent against threats that are greater than proliferation. Since neither of these assumptions is valid, the strategy is flawed.”

Bush’s Nuclear Revolution: A Regime Change in Nonproliferation

George Perkovich

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2003


BUSH: “We’ve got a plan in place. The plan says there will be elections in January, and there will be. The plan says we’ll train Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work, and we are. And it’s not only just America, but NATO is now helping, Jordan’s helping train police, UAE is helping train police. We’ve allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts. And we’re making progress there. And our alliance is strong. We’re making progress.

“It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It’s hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free. But it’s necessary work. And a free Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful place.”

from the first Presidential debate, Kerry/Bush-Sept 30, 2004


“Our work in Iraq has been hard.

“Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they do not build any. They can incite men to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live, and hope, and add to the progress of their country. The terrorists’ only influence is violence, and their only agenda is death.

“Our agenda, in contrast, is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.

“Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all — to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America’s task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend – a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.”

President Outlines Steps to Help Iraq Achieve Democracy and Freedom
Remarks by the President on Iraq and the War on Terror
United States Army War College
Carlisle, Pennsylvania–May 24, 2004

So I guess now that we have started re-regulating the financial industry, we’re in for a newer new new world order. Can I order a new leader who listens to the people and not the New World Order?


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