A recurring theme on the blogosphere in general and in these pages in particular is that we are not being well-served by our employees in government, especially at the Federal Imperial level. When contemplating this issue the other day, the idea occurred that maybe my own occupation may be better suited to governing than those of our last few Presidents.
Before you ask, no, I’m not running for President. I’d sooner shovel shit than hold elected office; it smells better, and shoveling shit is at least honest work.
Moving on: Let’s have a look at the supposed occupations (or at least educational backgrounds) of our last few Presidents:
Gerald Ford: Football Player, Sailor (Navy Lieutenant Commander), Lawyer
Jimmy Carter: Sailor (Navy Lieutenant), peanut farmer, writer
Ronald Reagan: Actor & broadcaster, President of the Screen Actors Guild
George H. W. Bush: Pilot (Navy Lieutenant, Junior Grade), Businessman (Oil), C.I.A. Director, ambassador to China.
George W. Bush: Pilot (Texas Air National Guard), Businessman (Oil, baseball)
Barack Obama: Community Organizer, Lawyer, Professor
Look at all those lawyers! Since 1972, half of our chief executives have been lawyers! At least the lawyers were equally distributed between parties. We’re reminded of the man in a bar who, after several beers, stood up and loudly announced “All lawyers are assholes!”
“Why?” the first man sneers. “Are you a lawyer?”
“No,” the second man snaps back. “I’m an asshole!”
But back to my own occupation. For the last twenty-five years plus a few months I’ve worked in various Quality Control roles in the medical device and biotech industries, and for the last twelve I’ve been an independent consultant developing and implementing quality systems, specializing in Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) systems.
In other words, I help companies learn how to solve problems. The key to solving problems? Finding root causes.
What is our government lousy at? Solving problems. Why? Most of our public servants wouldn’t know a root cause if you folded it up and jammed it up their nether orifice.
Here’s one key, perhaps the most important key, to identifying the root cause of a problem: Root cause is always at the point where a person or a group of people made a decision. The root cause of the 2007 housing crash, for example, had at its root the fact that several politicians maintained that “everyone has the right to own their own home” and proceeded to legislate an emotional stance, resulting in banks being forced to extend loans to poor credit risks for houses they couldn’t afford – artificially inflating housing prices and forcing banks to bundle toxic assets and find some way to unload them.
Another thing Quality people do is to analyze trends. Why? Because it helps head off quality issues before they become systemic. Trend analysis can enable an organization to identify trends and determine and address their causes before they become systemic.
Granted that’s an extremely brief thumbnail of what Quality folks do, but you get the idea – and it’s manifestly obvious that Quality is something we could use more of in government.
Maybe government should adopt some of the quality practices that industry has been using since the 1950s. Maybe it’s time for some Quality professionals to step up to the plate and start exerting some influence on our Imperial Federal government.
Not me, though. I’ve got my hands full running my business. And if my business goes south, as previously noted, I’d rather shovel shit.