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jerryking : cynicism   6

Why boring government matters
November 1, 2018 | | Financial Times | Brooke Masters.

The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, by Michael Lewis, Allen Lane, RRP£20, 219 pages.

John MacWilliams is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who becomes the risk manager for the department of energy. He regales Lewis with a horrific catalogue of all the things that can go wrong if a government takes its eye off the ball, and provides the book with its title. Asked to name the five things that worry him the most, he lists the usual risks that one would expect — accidents, the North Koreans, Iran — but adds that the “fifth risk” is “project management”.

Lewis explains that “this is the risk society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.” In other words, America will suffer if it stops caring about the unsung but vital programmes that decontaminate billions of tonnes of nuclear waste, fund basic scientific research and gather weather data.

That trap, he makes clear with instance after instance of the Trump administration failing to heed or even meet with his heroic bureaucrats, is what America is falling into now.

We should all be frightened.
books  book_reviews  boring  bureaucracy  bureaucrats  cynicism  Department_of_Energy  government  Michael_Lewis  public_servants  risks  technocrats  unglamorous  writers  short-term_thinking  competence  sovereign-risk  civics  risk-management 
november 2018 by jerryking
How to Build a Successful Team - Business Guides - The New York Times
By Adam Bryant

Make a Plan
You need a clear and measurable goal for what you want to accomplish.

HIRING WELL ISN'T ENOUGH - Hiring the right people is the most important part of building a strong team, of course, and delegating to give people more autonomy is a powerful motivator.

But managing a team is not that simple. Leaders have to play a far more hands-on role to make sure the group works well together and remains focused on the right priorities.

CREATE A CLEAR MAP - Leaders owe their teams an answer to .....“Where are we going and how are we going to get there?” In other words, what is the goal and how are we going to measure progress along the way? ..... What does success look like? If you were to set up a scoreboard to track success over time, what would it measure?

The trouble often starts when leaders start listing five or seven or 11 priorities. As Jim Collins, the author of the best-selling management books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” is fond of saying: “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”

HAVE A SHARED SCOREBOARD - Another benefit of having a simple plan is that it creates a shared goal that will offset the tendency of people to identify themselves as part of smaller groups. Think of a football team, for example. There are many “tribes” within a team – offense and defense, linemen and receivers, running backs and defensive backs. But because the goal of the team is clear, and there’s an external scoreboard to track progress, there is a greater sense of “us” on the team than the “us and them” dynamic that can often divide colleagues in companies.

“Metrics are actually the way that you can harmonize a large number of people, whether it’s dozens or even thousands,

YOU MAY FEEL LIKE A BROKEN RECORD--Once you have a simple plan... keep reminding your team of the priorities, even if it can feel repetitive. ....“You say something seven times and they haven’t heard you,” he said. “Until they start making jokes about how often you repeat it, they haven’t internalized it.”

Rules of the Road
You’ll need a set of values, behaviors and cultural guardrails so that everybody knows how to work together.

CREATE YOUR TEAM'S CULTURE

All families have values, even if they aren’t discussed explicitly. There are certain behaviors that are encouraged and discouraged — like rules of the road — for how everyone is going to (try to) get along and spend their time. ...As a leader, you can take a laissez-faire approach and hope the team meshes well over time. Or you can look for opportunities to set some shared guidelines for how people will work together.

There are no hard and fast rules for developing the cultural values of a team. In some cases, the founder of a company will issue them to employees. In others, top executives will turn the exercise over to employees to make it a bottom-up effort.

...AND STICK TO IT
teams  howto  lists  specificity  sticktoitiveness  shared_goals  cynicism  Jim_Collins  organizational_culture  values  repetition  priorities  metrics  subordinates  guardrails  the_right_people  cultural_values  tribes 
december 2017 by jerryking
To Sir, with cynicism
Sep. 04 2000 | - The Globe and Mail | KATHLEEN GALLAGHER.

Where have all the idealistic young teachers gone?

We're coming perilously close to losing them. ...... I sense a different mood. Last September, when I faced my OISE class, I began the year with a simple question: "When you shared your decision to become a teacher with the people in your life who love you, what did they say?" The answers were ambivalent at best.

With teacher-shortage terror sweeping the country, teacher candidates .......very concerned, about what their lives will look like and how they will cope with low morale in the schools. They are concerned, too, by suggestions about their inability to teach to acceptable national standards......At a time of teacher-bashing and formidable moves to bring back more rigid standards, Hollywood asks us to put our hope in hero-teachers, teachers who take on the authorities, parents, and other "bad" (jaded, tired, cynical) teachers, in order to transform the lives of unhappy, unlucky children.

I worry about the superhuman qualities that these movies tell us make "good teachers." Unlike Meryl Streep, my student teachers will not have a swelling soundtrack underscoring their actions when they find themselves facing program cutbacks and the cynicism of colleagues. Everyone loses when teaching becomes an act of individual heroism. We make schools unhappier places when we tell new teachers they're on their own, rather than encouraging them to join with experienced teachers who have developed strategies, over time, to contend with the manifold contradictory expectations placed on them.....What critics of public schools seem not to know (and what good teachers have always known) is that people generally play the roles we assign them. If we worsen conditions in classrooms -- too many students, fewer support staff -- and add affronts to teachers' professionalism, we will inevitably lead teachers to develop lower expectations of themselves. The result will be the corrosion of a truly noble profession.
Colleges_&_Universities  contradictions  cynicism  demoralization  expectations  high_schools  idealism  letters_to_the_editor  OISE  public_education  public_schools  teaching  teachers  unhappiness 
february 2015 by jerryking
Why Machiavelli Still Matters - NYTimes.com
By JOHN SCOTT and ROBERT ZARETSKY
Published: December 9, 2013

“The Prince” is a manual for those who wish to win and keep power. The Renaissance was awash in such how-to guides, but Machiavelli’s was different. To be sure, he counsels a prince on how to act toward his enemies, using force and fraud in war. But his true novelty resides in how we should think about our friends. It is at the book’s heart, in the chapter devoted to this issue, that Machiavelli proclaims his originality.

Set aside what you would like to imagine about politics, Machiavelli writes, and instead go straight to the truth of how things really work, or what he calls the “effectual truth.” [Effectual truth means not only that the truth will have an effect, a consequence, but also that its effect will show. Those who try to live by a profession of good will fail and be shown to fail. ] You will see that allies in politics, whether at home or abroad, are not friends....Machiavelli teaches that in a world where so many are not good, you must learn to be able to not be good. The virtues taught in our secular and religious schools are incompatible with the virtues one must practice to safeguard those same institutions. The power of the lion and the cleverness of the fox: These are the qualities a leader must harness to preserve the republic.

For such a leader, allies are friends when it is in their interest to be. (We can, with difficulty, accept this lesson when embodied by a Charles de Gaulle; we have even greater difficulty when it is taught by, say, Hamid Karzai.) What’s more, Machiavelli says, leaders must at times inspire fear not only in their foes but even in their allies — and even in their own ministers.
cynicism  Niccolò_Machiavelli  Medici  indispensable  advice  friendships  politics  power  virtues  interests  consigliere  leaders  self-interest  fear  adaptability  political_power  self-preservation  effectiveness  Charles_de_Gaulle  negative_space  primers 
december 2013 by jerryking
9/11 and the age of sovereign failure -
Sep. 10, 2011 | The Globe & Mail | Michael Ignatieff.. One
of the tasks we ask govt. to perform is to think the unthinkable. Yet on
9/11, govt. institutions failed...A sovereign is a state with a
monopoly on the means of force...It is there to think the unthinkable
and plan for it. A sovereign failed that morning.... There has been a
cascade of failure: (1) No WMDs found in Iraq; (2) The failure of the
levees & New Orleans civil authority following Hurricane Katrina;
(3) the 2008 mortgage bubble and govt. regulators; (4) the failure of
govt. regulators to catch BP before the Spring 2010 oil spill. ...While
there are a lot of things a govt. might do, there are a few things that
only a govt. can do: protect the people, rescue them when they are in
danger, regulate against catastrophic risk and safeguard the full faith
and credit of their currency. Sovereigns matter. And rebuilding their
legitimacy, their capacity and their competence is the political task
that matters most......It is always good to be skeptical about what governments tell us. But we are beyond skepticism now, into a deep and enduring cynicism. There will come a day when they are not crying wolf and we will not believe them. Then we will be in trouble. Some trust in government is a condition of democracy and security alike. That trust has been weakened and can't be rebuilt until sovereigns say what they mean, mean what they say and do what they promise.
Michael_Ignatieff  failure  government  9/11  low_probability  catastrophic_risk  priorities  unthinkable  sovereign-risk  state-as-facilitator  legitimacy  capacity  competence  oil_spills  cynicism  skepticism  policymaking 
september 2011 by jerryking

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