Posted by: knightbird | July 21, 2010

Fact Based, Non Judgmental

I used to admire Tom Vilsack when he was Governor of Iowa. I never met him, don’t know anything about his politics, but Governor Vilsack did a lot for his state that our Governors in Alaska wouldn’t even consider. He embraced Lean Government when it came to his attention in 2003, and advanced it during his tenure. I have written a letter to former Alaska Governor Sara Palin suggesting the use of Lean Management to resurrect the extremely politically and poorly managed Matanuska Dairy. I also wrote her about a Lean Healthcare conference we held in Alaska in 2007 and suggested she examine Lean Healthcare as a means of dealing with ever increasing Medicare payments. She didn’t acknowledge either letter. I wrote a similar letter to Governor Parnell. One of his assistants emailed me back expressing interest, but there has been very little action on the part of our current Governor. As a result, the State of Alaska remains very poorly managed despite the presence of many talented and hardworking employees. The Lean revolution in Iowa remains solid despite a new and less visionary governor being elected after Governor Vilsack left office.

My opinion about Governor Vilsack has started to change now that he is the Secretary of Agriculture. I am beginning to think he was a “Lean Poser.” Lean Posers accept the tool based improvements of Lean, which can be substantial. They fail, however, to understand the true power of Lean Management, and that is the empowerment of employees to do the work they were hired to do. Posers fail to understand this.

Posers also fail to understand that good management must be based on real facts and data. Shirley Sherrod is the U.S. Department of Agriculture employee was recently fired for allegedly failing to help a white farming couple in the same way she would help minority farmers. A Tea Party activist posted an edited version of a speech made by Ms. Sherrod on his website (conservative Andrew Breitbart). Mr. Breitbart alleged that comments on the edited video (taken out of context) proved that Ms. Sherrod and the NAACP, who sponsored the event where her speech had been given, were racist. Ms. Sherrod’s resignation was immediately requested by Mr. Vilsack’s Department, and Ms. Sherrod’s comments were even condemned by the NAACP. The basic point is that neither the Department for which Mr. Vilsack has responsibility nor the NAACP under the leadership of Benjamin Jealous showed Ms. Sherrod the courtesy of basing their comments on facts, which would have included the courtesy of talking to her (not at her as they did over the airwaves). They were not “fact based” and they were extremely “judgmental.”

We strive to be fact based and non judgmental at Chugachmiut. It can be difficult. As a former trial attorney, I know that one demi fact, repeated loudly and often enough can obscure the right decision. I am fortunate enough to have staff, particularly 2 on my leadership team, who remind me of this when I stray. “Fact based, non judgmental.” Mr. Vilsack needs to learn this basic tenet of Lean Management. Then he needs to have Ms. Sherrod over for Tea, apologize, then ask for forgiveness. From what I have seen of Ms. Sherrod on Television, she was fact based, and removed judgment from her decision when she helped the white farming couple save their farm. I am sure she will be fact based and non judgmental towards Mr. Vilsack if he demonstrates that he has learned this lesson.

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