Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mr President, All Problems are Management Problems

As we watch the President stumble and fall his way through the BP Oil Disaster, many of the left leaning pundits still hang their hat on, “Well what exactly should the President be doing? The spill is BP’s responsibility.” Certainly an intellectually dishonest argument but lets go with it anyway. What is needed is for the President to be schooled in executive management. Executive management experience is not necessary for a president, but it does have its advantages when a disaster like BP comes along. Those Presidents that were not governors rely heavily on aids and advisors to give him (no hers yet) direction. Unfortunately, President Obama has no advisors that have any executive management experience either. The executive errors made by the President was explained by of all people, Sarah Palin. Now I’m not a big fan of Ms Palin, but she has been a governor and she knows oil companies. This what she said when asked, “What was the most difficult thing that you had to deal with when you were having meeting with them face to face?”

Palin: Believing that their perception of what the circumstances were in any situation that we dealt with them, whether it be a spill or a lacks infrastructure maintenance or the value of the resource that was being sold. In any of those issues, it was believing what they were telling me and my administration in terms of their perspective on what the facts were. Now here’s where the problem lies with President Obama in waiting so long, you know, 8 weeks before contacting the CEO of BP and with the high-ranking officials that have been calling the shots. He has allowed this industry player to, just to define the facts so they are just in this position of having astronomical maximum liability, so he has allowed them to define the facts of this spill. You can never be allowed to do that as a CEO, and be on a level playing field; two equals there at the table, when you allow one side of the table, in this case BP in dealing with the spill to define the facts.

In the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, he failed to take the high ground. While it’s true that BP should be handling the clean-up, the President needs to define the nature of the clean-up and where his priorities are; in other words not to let BP “define the facts of the spill.” You see, what BP sees as a successful clean-up strategy and what the President and/or American people see as a successful clean-up strategy, exist in two completely different universes. Bp views the spill as the price of doing business. Their strategy revolves around image damage control and minimizing costs. When BP’s CEO said “is a very big ocean” and “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest,” he was accurately describing BP’s definition of the scope of the disaster.
Left up to BP, they would, well, do what they are doing now. Using the resources and logistics they deem necessary, which appears to be a hodgepodge of uncoordinated clean-up efforts, leaning more toward media damage control, than they welfare of those that live and make a living in the waters of the Golf. There have numerous reports of BP prohibiting any scrutiny of their beach cleanups, as they simply dump sand over the oil covered beaches .

The job of an executive manger is to stream line efforts and delegate an overseer position that has the authority to cut red tape and bypass regulations. We have seen 16 barges sidelined from skimming oil because the Coast Guard couldn’t determine how many life jackets they are required to have. and a giant oil skimming tanker, capable of skimming 500,000 gals a day, has been stalled because federal regulations would not allow the clean oil to have more than 15 parts per million of residue oil. This means that if it is shown the residue is 30 or 100 parts per million, 500,000 gals of oil a day will stay in the gulf, designed to prohibit pollution!
Before the Horizon well blew up, the government waived 27 regulations to expedite the drilling, they certainly can waive a few regulations to clean it up.

There is also the matter of the Jones Act, where rather than accept early, and now ongoing help from oil clean-up vessels from all over the world, the President has refused to waive the Jones Act to allow them into US waters, even after it was requested by the Coast Guard, "We have exhausted all our east coast supply of skimming vessels," Capt. Laferriere said. "We are now looking at Norway, France, Spain and other European vessels." But the Maritime Unions are using a bait and switch game to stop a waiver of the Jones act, so these non US flagged vessels can be utilized. Maritime industry spokesmen say boat owners and longshoremen – who are tied to the AFL-CIO, one of Obama's biggest union supporters – have no issue with waiving the act if US vessels can't be found to do the job. But the Maritime Industry is being disingenuous pointing to the 1500 US flagged skimming ships standing idle. You see, most of these skimming ships are on the west coast and Alaska, not being deployed in the event of an oil spill elsewhere in the US. The Martine industry knows the US can not afford to leave the west coast undefended from oil spills, so the Jones Act remains in place and the Gulf beaches and environment continue to be destroyed.

Where the President fails as an executive is standing on the concept that the spill is somebody else’ responsibility; the Exxon Valdez law says it is the oil companies responsibility to handle the clean up. This is a copout. The first rule of Executive Management is all problems are management problems. The basics of problem solving is to; 1) Define the problem 2) Identify possible solutions 3) Selecting the Best Solution 4) Implement and follow up on the solution. The end result is the President violated the second rule of Executive Management and that is to take ownership of the problem; this tells everyone who is in charge. Instead hat the President turned ownership of the problem over to BP; in essence telling the country, “There is nothing I can do and besides, it’s not my job.” Yes it is, Mr President, yes it is.

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