« Weekend Caption Contest™ Winners | Main | World's favorite sport »

Crisis Management For Dummies

During my life, I have held various positions of responsibility. I have been in charge of as many as a dozen people at a time -- and I did fairly well at it. And while that isn't a great reservoir of experience, it has taught me a few things about what to do when things go to hell in a handbasket.

When things do go all pear-shaped, there are some fairly simple principles that help tremendously in getting things back on track.

The first thing that has to be done is to figure out if the problem is ongoing, or if the crap has already run its course. If it's still happening, the priority is to stop it. Stabilizing the situation takes precedence over everything.

Then, and only then, you need to assess what harm has been done and how best to fix it. Especially if the harm has been done to someone else.

Finally, once the harm has been fixed as best as possible (or well on its way), then -- and only then -- do you look into the root causes and assess blame and responsibility. (The two are NOT the same -- more on that later.)

In the process of stabilizing and fixing, though, you do NOT worry about blame. That simply isn't a concern at that stage. And the person or people who caused the problem are, paradoxically, quite often the best to help at that stage. They are the ones who are probably the best acquainted with just went wrong, and they can help figure out how to fix things.

Unless, of course, they caused the problem deliberately. If there was malice involved, then you keep them the hell away from the actual problem -- but get their input anyway. Pretty much anything they say might be useful. But sabotage is actually pretty rare.

When the situation is stabilized, that's when you do the blame and responsibility thing. It might turn out that some new guy did something wrong, and sent it all careening down the toilet. He's to blame. But he should have been properly supervised and trained to not do that -- the folks who were in charge of that are responsible.

That, in a nutshell, is what anyone who ever held a position of leadership or responsibility learns fairly quickly -- or they don't get those positions again. And those are lessons that President Obama has apparently never learned.

With the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama focused immediately on the "blame/responsibility" angle, even while the situation continued to worsen. This is, to put it mildly, exceptionally counterproductive.

Yes, the problem was BP's responsibility. And they never denied it. But instead of throwing all possible resources at the problem, getting everyone to work together to first stop the leak, then contain the oil and mitigate the damage, Obama broke out the old "blame-thrower" and started firing at the folks trying like hell to stop the leaking.

So here's BP. Nobody thinks they deliberately caused the leak. Nobody wants to stop the damned thing than they do -- it's an ongoing PR nightmare and incredibly escalating fiscal liability. But they can't focus all their resources on the leak, because they have the President of the United States leading the charge at demonizing them and "keeping his boot on their throat."

Obama's other responses to the spill are equally counterproductive (to put it mildly). His plan to suspend all offshore drilling for six months? "Hey, here's a disaster that's going to gut the economy of the Gulf region. Let's punish a bunch of other people who haven't done anything wrong yet, and throw a whole bunch more people out of work, and cut down even more on our domestic oil supply!"

Anyone with a lick of common sense and managerial experience would have, from the outset, said to BP "we're not going to worry about blame right now. Let's stop that leak. What do you need? How can we help? You need the Jones Act suspended so we can bring in foreign-flagged ships to help? You need the Air Force to fly in oil booms from Maine? You need the Coast Guard to help track the plumes? Whatever you need, we'll get you. Let's get this plugged, the shores secured, and then we'll worry about assigning blame."

Or, to steal a line from a truly legendary government problem-solver, "let's work the problem, people!"

But while this failure is clearly President Obama's fault, it's not his responsibility. As I said above, it's the responsibility of the people who put him in that position without adequate training and supervision, who didn't recognize his utter lack of qualifications for his job. The guy had never run anything bigger than a Congressional office, and had nothing on his record to show that he had any kind of managerial or executive or supervisory or leadership skills or abilities.

No, the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of those who elected him.

Thank you so much, you 52.9% of voters who put this idiot in office based essentially on "he reads his speeches so prettily."

Or, as the one person on the 2008 election ticket with actual executive experience put it, "how's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?"


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (23)

Here Lee Ward let me save y... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Here Lee Ward let me save you trouble.

Republicans were for inexperienced dem candidates before a black man became president.

Jay -To be fair, I... (Below threshold)

Jay -

To be fair, I think the folks who promoted and pushed Obama way above his pay grade knew exactly what they were getting - a blob of relatively firm clay they could (supposedly) form as they wanted. He was charismatic, and pre-programmed with all the right attitudes. Independent thinking? Analytical problem solving? The capability to think outside the box when the shit hits the fan? Those weren't part of the package, and they weren't even wanted in the first place. You don't, after all, want a puppet that'll go do what HE thinks is best, now do you?

He was the PERFECT candidate, as far as the 'reality-based' crowd was concerned. He mouthed all the right platitudes, said all the things that made their legs tingle, smiled and waved and they could fall all over themselves and think how 'progressive' they were promoting him. Crisis management? Hey, he can handle ANYTHING - look how SMOOTH he is!

Then the shit hits the fan, and his complete lack of actual leadership skills - or ANY ability beyond reading a teleprompter with skill, conviction, and panache - became very evident. You can spin mistakes when you've got a compliant staff and press, you can pass bills that have no chance of actually working in the real world to popular acclaim (or, at least that's what you tell people) - but when the fecal matter hits the air-moving device, that's when you've got to have something more than a superficial gloss and a glib manner.

And the poor sap doesn't. He's never actually managed anything - never had a problem that couldn't be smoothed over by his handlers and supporters. He's in so far over his head that he doesn't even understand how far over his head he is.

He's had to make decisions - and his every instinct is AGAINST that, because by making a decision he puts the responsibilty on HIS head. If it works out - fine, but if it doesn't? He's responsible for the wreck.

And this wouldn't have been a problem - if there hadn't been anything challenging crop up. Pass a few laws, throw a few parties, piss off a few allies, suck up to old enemies, and call it a Presidency.

But now we've got Iran to deal with. And Afghanistan. And the Gulf. Add in a significant amount of the population no longer buying the hope&change rhetoric, more and more evidence that his 'stimulus' packages are producing no job growth, the economy's in stasis, employers aren't hiring because the weak economy AND the constant proposals from the White House and Congress about new taxes and new restrictions make expansion uncertain at best... and you've got an friggin' EPIC fail unfolding.

Oh, lucky us - to be able to live through such historic times and see epic events which will go down in history unfolding daily!

Two points:Even be... (Below threshold)

Two points:

Even before there is a crisis, a good manager would have prepared to respond to anticipatable (new word) events. The military does it (what happens if Poland declares war on us, etc.), airports do it (crash drills and so on). Doing this keeps from having to spend precious time thinking about what to do, one can skip right to the response stage. This obviously didn't happen here.

And it isn't just Obama, this is an indictment of the entire government (at least those who are responsible for this area). Obama's indecision is a result not just of his inexperience but also the fact that no one in the pay grades below him had thought things out ahead of time and thus wasn't able to give him a response plan that he could simply approve. There are probably thousands of government workers involved in some aspect of monitoring and regulating oil drilling... yet none of them thought it would be a good idea to have a plan and resources in place just in case something like this happened (this begs the question of just what they were doing with their time?)

BTW, this is an encore of the incompetence shown by the government during the financial crisis. Thousands of government workers employed in monitoring the financial system and they had nothing in advance on how to deal with such a crisis.... they had to figure things out as they went.

"Surely you jest!"... (Below threshold)

"Surely you jest!"

Seriously, a man (and I use that term loosely) with NO organizational or leadership experience in charge of a ongoing crisis who uses Alinsky's Rules as a guideline assigning blame before taking steps to mitigate the actual problem?

As was said just after his election by many conservatives, "We are so screwed."

The almost daily contradict... (Below threshold)

The almost daily contradictions are a dead giveaway of the fact that the right hand knows not what the left hand doeth. Especialy that the left hand doesn't even know what it's doing. Most recent case in point: We're constantly being informed by Congress and various administration officials that BP "just isn't doing enough". And we have Obama telling us, "Make no mistake," he said, "BP is operating at our direction."

"...52.9% of voters who put... (Below threshold)
Don L:

"...52.9% of voters who put this idiot in office based essentially on "he reads his speeches so prettily."

I suspect that the real reason was told us by a leftist - Geraldine Ferrarro, who said he was only where he was because of the color of his skin. Political Correctness isn't a mere mode of liberalism -it is a skillfully planned and developed weapon that will destroy us unless we swallow pride -speak truth to their faces - take the persoanl attacks and toss them back at them, and foer gosh sake, stop imitating them like children (By selecting a black RNC Chairman.)

If this guy gets i... (Below threshold)

If this guy gets in any further over his head, he'll need SCUBA gear.

Dear God, I miss W.

IG:You mean self c... (Below threshold)


You mean self centered unending blaming anyone? I think he already has that down.

Golfing is not effective cr... (Below threshold)

Golfing is not effective crisis management???

Thank you so much,... (Below threshold)
Thank you so much, you 52.9% of voters who put this idiot in office based essentially on "he reads his speeches so prettily."

Just as Obama explained to Joe the Plumber how important is was to "spread the wealth" around, you can bet he will direct his congress to pass legislation to spread the debt. While BP should incur most of the debt, paying those who will lose their jobs because of Obama's decision to put a six month moratorium on all exploratory deepwater drilling is a perfect example of the poor management skills Jay has explained here. This decision alone will be more devastating financially, (in the long term), to the region and the country than the short term cost of clean-up and containment. Never let a crisis go to waste is being used here to the full weight of the federal government. Under Obama's "plan", the southern gulf states will become totally dependent on federal (taxpayer funded) money completing the welfare state mentality/agenda this administration has been pushing from day one. Our only hope is that the 52.9% has a diminished capacity.

"Thank you so much, you 52.... (Below threshold)

"Thank you so much, you 52.9% of voters who put this idiot in office based essentially on "he reads his speeches so prettily."

And a hat tip to those SOB's who decided to stay home in Nov 2008.

"With the BP oil spill i... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

"With the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama focused immediately on the "blame/responsibility" angle, even while the situation continued to worsen. This is, to put it mildly, exceptionally counterproductive. "

Wrong. he focused imemdiately on who was responsible for the cleanup effort. He made it clear to world that it was BP's job to clean up the spill.

Wrong, Lee. It was EVERYONE... (Below threshold)

Wrong, Lee. It was EVERYONE'S job. Situations like that don't need people standing around pointing fingers (although that is what Obama is best at), it needs every hand to work the problem.

Once the problem is under control, THEN we figure out the responsibility and blame.

Besides, did BP ever ONCE try to say it wasn't their responsibility? Did they ever try to shirk out of it?

Obama was so eager to make sure they got the blame so he could evade his own responsibilities (as the head of the US government) in fighting the disaster.

Thanks for proving my point. I know I can always count on you to demonstrate the idiocy of the left.


"Wrong, Lee. It was EVER... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

"Wrong, Lee. It was EVERYONE'S job. Situations like that don't need people standing around pointing fingers (although that is what Obama is best at), it needs every hand to work the problem. "

And if Obama had rallied the National Guard and ignored the fact that BP was responsible by law for the cleanup effort conservatives would have bellowed that he was spending tax dollars to support BP, running up the national debt to support BP, etc.

You can't have it both ways.

When the law says BP is responsible for the cleanup - and when you have BP agreeing they are responsible for the clean up efforts, and you have a nation that screams when tax dollars are spent inappropriately - complaining 6 weeks later that Obama should have pushed BP aside is a joke.

I didn't hear any conservatives complaining that BP was spending their money to clean up and it should have been tax dollars instead.

"Once the problem is under control, THEN we figure out the responsibility and blame"

BP has responsibility for bringing the problem under control. I'm sure you small government conservatives wouldn't have it any other way. You would have screamed if Obama had pushed BP aside after (1) the law required BP to do the cleanup and (2) BP admitted that it was their responsibility.

"Besides, did BP ever ONCE try to say it wasn't their responsibility? Did they ever try to shirk out of it? "

No and that's exactly the point. It IS their responsibility, not Obama's.

Thanks for proving my point. I know I can always count on you to demonstrate the idiocy of the right.

Fair enough, Lee. Looks lik... (Below threshold)

Fair enough, Lee. Looks like agreement.
Obama did nothing to help solve the crisis.

Did Obama suspend the Jones... (Below threshold)

Did Obama suspend the Jones act, so we could get foriegn ships in?

Did Obama go "Ohay, anyone who wants to help - we're wide open for assistance. We'll even provide beer and pizza. (We'll bill BP for it later.)"? Nope - "We're good. Don't need any help. Got it handled. Thanks." And he sent lawyers - can't forget that...

Shit. Even Jimmy Carter would have done it better. HE, at least, had the benefit of some leadership training from the Navy, and understood that studied indecision isn't going to solve any problems. When time is of the essence, you get the assets into position first, deal with the problem, and worry about the paperwork and blame later.

But not this administration. Process is far more important than results - look at how long it took for the EPA to approve Jindal's berm requests. THAT should have been a no-brainer. Dispersants from the UK? Rejected because the paperwork wasn't in order. Ships from all over? Jones Act! Do not pass go, do not collect 200k barrels of oil. Dispersants? Nope, don't use them, the EPA has concerns!

WTF? If they'd tried to deliberately hamstring the response effort, they couldn't have done much better. The priorities are skewed badly - and it's showing more and more. The mistakes being made by the administration are stupid ones, and they reflect directly on Obama.

He's the CMFWIC - at his word these things could have been made right.

I think Obama's going to go down in the history books, all right - but he's not going to appreciate the listing.

Most of those rules, Lee, h... (Below threshold)

Most of those rules, Lee, have provisions for emergencies. And a lot of us have no problems in backing Obama when he's right -- like when he authorized the Navy to kill those Somali pirates, when he uses drones to kill terrorists, and whatnot.

It ain't our fault if he's on the right side so damned rarely.

As noted, there were a LOT of things he could have done. JLawson cited several, and I said quite a few originally.

But no, his first impulse was to air-drop in lawyers. Lawyers to make certain BP didn't do anything wrong (which had the effect of guaranteeing they didn't do much of anything beyond the minimums), lawyers to remind BP that they were going to get their asses nailed to the wall, lawyers to keep their boots on BP's throat.

Typical for a community organizer. Shitty for a leader.


"a lot of us have no pro... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

"a lot of us have no problems in backing Obama when he's right -- like when he authorized the Navy to kill those Somali pirates, when he uses drones to kill terrorists, and whatnot."

So what you're saying, Jay, is that as long as Obama is killing some darkies you like him.

Or do you have any other examples of times you approve?

I didn't think so...

Actually, Lee, if he'd do m... (Below threshold)

Actually, Lee, if he'd do more things like occasionally countenancing the killing of our enemies, I'd support him more.

But there's one "darkie" (ooh, Lee used a minor racial epithet! He's so edgy and cool and dangerous!) he's trying to get killed that has me seriously irritated. So I guess that, once again, your simple little insinuation is worthless...


"Actually, Lee, if he'd ... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

"Actually, Lee, if he'd do more things like occasionally countenancing the killing of our enemies, I'd support him more. "

So then the answer is No. You can't think of a single other thing Obama has done that meets your approval other than the aforementioned killing of dark-skinned people.

Thanks, that's what I thought.

And LeeW continues to be st... (Below threshold)

And LeeW continues to be stoooopid. I'm sure BP wanted this spill, BP looked forward to losing millions of barrels of oil, spending probably billions of dollars in cleanup costs, millions of dollars in relief well drilling. I'm sure they looked forward to destroying the environment, and destroying the economy of millions of people in the region, including BP employees. And let us not forget all the free publicity BP is receiving.
Obama and the feds are not to blame of course. This happened in FEDERAL waters. The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES job is to protect this country, regardless of the threat. After a year and a half in office, with HIS "experts" in place, with his "experts" responsible for enforcement of regulations and response lets not blame our government.
Ask any "worm" (new guy) in the oil patch and he will tell you in case of a spill, the first priority is CONTAINMENT and stopping the source. With a blowout of this magnitude (or even if it was smaller) oil is going to be released, so it needs to be contained as much as possible - BP obviously knew this and did not have the capabilities to contain the spill, (kind of like trying to put out the rig fire with a fire extinguisher). But the POTUS with all his "experts" had contingency plans MMS, EPA, FEMA, etc. The vast majority of these agencies are run by lawyers. So, while oil is spewing out the answer is SUE 'EM that will stop this crisis and show them who is boss. You betcha! That will stop the leak and keep the spill contained. The governors of the area know what is going to happen and want pro active measures to be implemented. Are they crazy? Hey, you need environmental impact statements, we got 15-20 agencies involved here, have you submitted the proper paperwork? Need help from other countries, need specialized equipment? Let's see what happens first (sending this paperwork back, you forgot to cross your tees - and one of the i's isn't dotted). HELP? HELP? We don't need no stinking help. You got a problem with red tape? Hey this government runs on red tape, and we aren't cutting it for no-one. I told you we should have converted to unicorn piss, so since you didn't listen, it is now going to cost you more, and you can pay even more and suffer nanny, nanny boobie.
I guess if a nuclear missile was launched at the US, this moron would not attempt to intercept (hey, THEY launched, it's not my fault, but if it hits, by golly we will sue them for damages). Chaos and stupidity at the FED level, and us with no leader. His claim to fame was community organizer - and he can't organize dick as president of the US? What the fuck did he ORGANIZE? Oh, right! He is a lawyer also, if you sue (right or wrong) it obfuscates the issue and redirects attention.

This was envisioned and a l... (Below threshold)

This was envisioned and a law passed 20 years ago:

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990

Section 4201 of OPA 90 provides:
(1)(A) The President shall, in accordance with the National
Contingency Plan and any appropriate Area Contingency Plan,
ensure effective and immediate removal of a discharge, and
mitigation or prevention of a substantial threat of a
discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance:
(i) into or on the navigable waters"

Need anyone say more about legal responsibility

"... 52.9% of 'voters' who ... (Below threshold)

"... 52.9% of 'voters' who put this idiot in office ..."

There you go again ...

Around that percentage of votes claimed -- by America's "Democratic" potty-activist owned, operated and controlled election machinery apparatchiks -- to have been "counted" -- put this idiot in office.

Had the several million criminal alien and/or felon and/or dead and/or long long dead folks "votes" not been permitted (as happens in, say, Zimbabwe, Zambia and New Zealand) and/or had been eliminated, 0zero would not have made it through the primary "election," even.






Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile


Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links


Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login

Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy