Continuation of Preventing CP Error #5

To finish up on the last few points in this month’s Brownbag session, we left off in your handouts at IV. Fundamentals for Preventing / Correcting CP Error #5, item C on page 14, this was the last of three (A-C) points.

Here are the rest of the finer points we wanted to relay to you . . .

IV. CP Error #5C: Implementation Geniuses are Flexible about SOME things, and NOT about others

  • Their Mission is NOT negotiable . . . They are intent on accomplishing it.
  • They are very flexible on HOW to accomplish that mission.

These two points are probably a good short-hand rule for getting THIS part of CP Error #5 right.
It’s best if you can get clear in YOUR mind and in your publics’ minds that:

  1. You have every intention of accomplishing your mission . . . that you fully expect to SOLVE the problem at hand, that your Mission is NOT negotiable, and that you WILL fulfill your RESPONSIBILITY.
    But . . .
  2. You DO have an OPEN mind about HOW to accomplish your Mission . . . as long as it gets accomplished! Get them to conclude that you are willing to try to be Responsive to PAIs’ concerns, as long as it does not involve compromising your Mission.

V. The Damage / Costs of CP Error #5

A. Trying to sell the public a bill of goods that you, yourself, haven’t bought into is a truly cynical thing to do.

  • It creates mistrust and disrespect for you and your agency.Don’t EVER contribute to such sentiments!
  • If you DON’T have some Hidden — agenda, goal, objective (and we trust you don’t!) . . . Then you’ll WANT to do each of the 16 technical steps as rigorously, honestly, and transparently as humanly possible!

Here’s the Rub

You may NOT have a Hidden Agenda at all . . . But, if some of your stakeholders THINK that you’re NOT interested in doing the 16 Technical Steps rigorously, honestly, and transparently . . . Then, they will conclude you must have a Hidden Agenda!!!
Creating THAT kind of impression with your public is far worse than shooting yourself in the foot at the start of a marathon race. It’s more like shooting yourself in the knee-cap!
Giving the impression that you DO have a Hidden Agenda is a phenomenally stupid thing to do!
We are continually amazed how many public-sector professionals, who are otherwise sensible, manage to continually do this . . . And, therefore, to keep suffering the consequences of:

  • Mistrtust
  • Suspicion
  • Cynicism
  • Skepticism

All of it feeding already rampant ANTI-government attitudes . . .

It is also demoralizing for you and your team . . . You can’t afford to do that!

B. Refusing to Speak Up for Your Professional Colleagues

i.e. Failing to explain, justify, represent those Rules, Regulations, Standards, Guidelines, and Laws that you are implementing, but instead to just remark “Don’t blame me for these stupid guidelines, I just work here.”

  • This is the quickest, surest, most fool-proof way to create CONTEMPT for you and your agency.
  • There’s NO good reason why ANYONE would want to do THAT!

C. If you become SO responsive where you start to compromise your Mission

  • Your public might LIKE you, . . . But, they will no longer RESPECT you!Realize that if you have an important public-sector Mission . . .
  • Being LIKED is neither possible, nor necessary.
  • However, being RESPECTED is both possible AND necessary.

VI. Important Concepts to Help Prevent CP Error #5

Look at your Decision-Making environment in a holistic way.

“Talking Back” about Technical Steps – especially Judgment Steps — simply amounts to Internal Consent-Building . . . i.e. Getting your boss’ consent to make a mid-course correction in your Planning Process.

For those of you who ARE responsible for the Citizen Participation side of the two parallel processes we often bring up (doing Consent-Building simultaneously as you do your Technical work — those 16 steps):
1. Play the Devil’s Advocate . . .

  • Ask any and all questions a future opponents is likely to ask. Insist that the technical folks give you the ammunition to understand AND answer those questions, so that you can DEFEND the Problem-Solving / Decision-Making process — on EACH and EVERY one of the 16 steps!
  • Remember, finding fault with any of those 16 steps is the EASIEST line of attack, and, therefore, the FIRST line of attack your opponents will use to torpedo your proposal.

2. Get so comfortable and confident with those 16 Technical Steps where YOU will go public — aggressively — with the WEAKEST points in them BEFORE your opponents can go public with them!

All of this is about Consent-Building . . .

  • Developing Informed Consent among internal PAIs that each of the 16 Technical Steps is DEFENSIBLE (i.e. is completed with a reasonable amount of rigor),
  • Developing Informed Consent among external PAIs. . . Ideally, on a pay-as-you-go basis for each of the technical steps so THEY come to the conclusion that what you’re proposing IS the right thing to do!
  • And if not on a pay-as-you-go basis, then AFTER you have done your technical work that: there is a serious problem / opportunity (one that HAS to be addressed); you are the right entity to address it (that, in light of your Mission it would be IRRESPONSIBLE if you didn’t address it); that they WAY you are going about addressing that problem (your Problem-Solving / Decision-Making process) is reasonable AND responsible; and that you DO care (if you’re proposing a course of action that’s going to HURT some interests, it’s NOT because you don’t care, it’s NOT because you’re not listening. . . ).

Recognize that you ARE part of government. Talking in a “blaming” way about other governmental entities breeds disrespect. Moreover, it’s unfair to your colleagues and their work, and it reflects poorly not only on them, but on ALL government — including you!
Don’t give in to the hypocritical temptation to bad-mouth “politics.” Using the term “politics” as if it were a four-lettered word.
When some of your colleagues talk of “politics” as if it were a curse word, point out to them that it’s utterly hypocritical to whine about “politics” while insisting on living in — and in your case WORKING in — a democratic system of government.
“Politics” is how democracies make decisions! Is it complicated? Is it crazy? Of course! But, the alternative is to NOT live and work in such a system.

Bleiker Consent Building Brownbag Follow Up Blog

Crisis Management 101

Whatever “Leadership” is, one of its components is “Crisis Management.” Why? . . .

Because that’s one thing administrators, managers, . . . leaders . . . find themselves in: crises.

Leaders Deploy Two Kinds of Crisis Management

One of them (let’s call this “Type A Crisis Management”) is when some awful thing happens, some highly unusual, terrible situation – an airplane crashes in your downtown, an earthquake or flash flood destroys an area, it is discovered that people for whom you’re responsible have done a terrible thing, etc. – and you, as a leader, have to “manage” this crisis.

In that sort of situation, you have to figure out what immediate steps to take, how to respond to the media who are descending on your community from afar.  You have to “manage” this rather unmanageable crisis that you find yourself in.


1st Type of Crisis Management

This first kind of “crisis management” refers to how leaders deal with the crisis-at-hand.  Examples of this kind of crisis management include:

  • A1. How the various public officials responded to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina
    • Officials of the City of New Orleans
    • Louisiana and Mississippi State Officials
    • Federal officials in such agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Corps of Engineers, and others


  • A2. How the Executive branch of the US government — and how the New York City First Responders — managed teh response to the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (September 11, 2001)


  • A3. How the US Treasury Department (Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke) managed the Financial Crisis that was triggered by an overnight inter-bank credit freeze in September of 2008


  • A4. How an organization – in the private or public sector – handles the public revelation that its staff has been guilty of gross negligence, incompetence, and worse: corruption or moral turpitude.


2nd Type of Crisis Management

The second kind of “crisis management” (let’s label “Type B Crisis Management”) refers to how you manage your normal, day-to-day management responsibilitieswhile you’re in the midst of a crisis. . . i.e. How you guide your organization as it tries to perform its routine, normal functions at a time when things are far from normal because there is some sort of crisis that is taking place.

Examples of this kind of crisis management include:

  • B1. How government entities in New York – such as police or firefighters not directly involved at the World Trade Center — tried to continue performing their normal functions . . . in spite of what was happening at the World Trade Center.


  • B2. How organizations – private or public – tried to continue with their normal functions . . . in spite of the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina, such as, the New Orleans Police Department, the Times-Picayune newspaper, local hospitals, local public utilities, etc.


  • B3. How an organizational leader tries to motivate – but also re-direct – the organization’s staff even though a scandal is unleashing a torrent of harsh criticism in the social media . . . as well as in the traditional media.



On-Going Example in the News

At this writing (spring 2014) serious students of leadership are being treated to a ring-side seat at a classical “Crisis Management” event:


  • General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s handling of a crisis that landed in her lap.

GM’s Board of Directors appointed her, a 30-year GM employee, as the company’s new CEO on January 15, 2014.

Two months later she is faced with having to handle the kind of crisis that makes for the kind of classic case study that constitute the core of most graduate management programs.
Here’s the Crisis GM CEO Barra has to handle:

By mid-March 2014, it was revealed that GM safety engineers knew years ago (for as long as 10 years) that the ignition switch in hundreds of thousands of Chevrolet Cobalt vehicles had potentially fatal defects.  The defect could, under certain conditions, disable the car’s air bag.


In spite of mounting evidence. . .


  • GM lied to the families of accident victims about what they knew,


  • GM refused to talk to one survivor family unless it was through their attorney (they did not have an attorney because they were not suing GM),


  • In a case where a survivor family did sue them, Gm called their lawsuit “frivolous” . . .


An Exercise in Crisis Management 101

What Would YOU Do in the GM Recall Crisis?

So, let’s stop the clock right there and put on the Crisis Management thinking cap . . . Imagine YOU (rather than Mary Barra) are the new CEO of GM, and the very damaging revelations are not just shocking the public, they’re shocking GM employees (because very few of them were privy to what the safety engineers and the attorneys knew); the revelations are equally shocking to you!
You need to think — and plan — how you ought to proceed with managing the Type A and the Type B Crises.  i.e. How to deal with the storm of a quickly widening public and legal scandal, as well as with managing the rest of the organization — that’s trying to produce competitive cars — while this storm plays out.


You’ll get the most out of this if you:

  1. Go online and read more background on the case.


  • One link, gets you to the USA Today article by Hillary Stout, Bill Vlasic, Danielle Ivory, and Rebecca Ruiz: “Carmaker Misled Grieving Families on a Lethal Flaw.” It is a pretty good description of the smoking gun that cinches GM’s guilt.  It gives you sense of the questions the Congressional Committee that you’re going to face next week will be asking you.


  • Another link, gets you to the very perceptive USA Todayarticle by Michael Wolff: Wolff: GM’s Barra shames voiceless CEOs.”  This piece Wolff’s is insightful, explaining just how uncommon, how unusual, Mary Barra’s approach to managing this crisis is.


  • And finally, the link takes you to a NY Times article by Vindu Goes: “G.M. Uses Social Media to Manage Customers and Its Reputation.” In it, he gives some examples of how they are using Social Media in a very creative, gutsy way, as one of their Crisis Communications Tools.


2.  Discuss what you think of all this with a colleague or two.


3. Then, submit your thoughts to Jennifer (  She’ll post those of your comments that meet this blog’s “Terms of Use,” and we’ll pick up the discussion from  there.

Becoming a Student of American Values for Developing Informed Consent

As often is the case following one of our 90-minute Brownbag teleconferences, additional points we could have discussed come to mind. Right after the January 2011 session which covered the topic of “The Tactic of Focusing on Higher Values… When Your Proposal is Really Bad News for Some of Your Stakeholders,” I sat down with a cup of coffee to get caught up on my stack of newspapers.

Because the Brownbag was still very much on my mind, three little articles jumped out at me as examples of how we — as a society — explore, debate, and eventually settle on the finer points of what is “fair,” and what is “unfair” . . . What “rights” and “limitations of rights” apply in certain specific situations.

Case #1

In the article “Pay Sale Rewards Good Looks” Amelia Rayno reported that researchers found that “thin women are paid significantly more than their average-size counterparts” (Monterey County Herald, January 11, 2011). The article went on to note that “skinnier-than-average men, on the other hand, cash smaller paychecks than their average-weight peers.” According to Rayno’s report, although these pay differences are unintentional, they nevertheless bear significant impacts on individuals: Thinner women make — on average — $16,000 more than their less-thin counterparts, while thin men earn on average $8,000 less than their stouter colleagues.

What Does This Have to Do with Me and My Work???

Perhaps you’re asking yourself “what’s the reason for the research that led to these findings?” And” why did journalist Rayno write an article about it?” More pointedly, “what does this have to do with my work as a public-sector professional or even with the January 2011 Brownbag session on legitimate projects that have (unintended) and unavoidable negative impacts for some stakeholders…?”

Glad you asked because while it is obvious to me, you might dismiss it without even a modicum of interest. But there is a lesson within it that is worthy of your attention…

Although it is never directly mentioned in the article, the entire point is that it calls into question our feelings of “fairness.” Americans, — that includes you, me, ALL of us — have the need to “be fair.” When we catch ourselves NOT being fair, our behavior violates our values, which — in turn — bothers us. Even though the article delineates the likely reasons why this discrimination happens, you can’t read it without thinking what the article never actually says “This just isn’t fair.”

Case #2

Another article that caught my eye was in the Wall Street Journal “Judge Rules that NY City Can Release Teacher Ratings” from January 10, 2011. According to the article, a judge ruled that the Department of Education in New York City must release the ratings and names of some 12,000 public school teachers. (How well — or poorly — students perform on standardized tests determines an individual teacher’s rating.) Part of the justice’s basis for the decision and a rejection of a petition by the United Federation of Teachers to keep the names private was that by releasing the names along with the ratings, “would not be arbitrary or capricious under the law.” A teachers’ union lawyer argued that “releasing the data would unfairly subject teacher to possible ridicule.”

What is “Fair?” What is a “Right?”

You see, when we can’t settle what’s “fair,” or what defines a “right” (i.e. higher level of values I discussed in this Brownbag — the meta-values), and what the limitations to those rights (i.e. meta-meta-values) then we turn to a court to settle the issue. That’s what has happened here. . .

While this judicial ruling probably DOES settle this particular “fairness-values” issue, courts don’t always have the last word. When the public feels that the court is too far removed from its interpretation and application of society’s values, the public — through its elected representatives — changes the law. In other words, the public usually has the last word on values-related issues. In fact, the next case I bring to your attention, makes reference to just such an instance. . .

Case #3

Following the recent attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (where she and 13 others were seriously wounded, and another six were killed), was an article focusing on the alleged shooter’s likely “insanity” defense. In the Monterey County Herald piece dated January 11, 2011, reporter Mark Sherman’s “Insanity Defense Difficult in Tucson Case” lays out the history of the insanity defense, and how a previous case changed the standards and outcomes of such a defense.

Here are the most values-pertinent parts of the article:

  • “In an earlier time, the emerging portrait of a deeply troubled man might have given Jared Loughner’s lawyers the basis of an insanity defense. But John Hinckley’s successful insanity claim after shooting President Ronald Reagan led Congress to raise the bar, making the task harder.”
  • “The Justice Department has not said wither it will seek the death penalty against Loughner. . . But federal prosecutors already are moving forward with charges, and veteran lawyers anticipate they will ask for him to be executed.”
  • “Yet comments from friends and former classmates bolstered by Loughner’s on Internet postings also have painted a picture of a social outcast with almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia.”
  • “On Monday, Loughner made a brief appearance in court, where he acknowledged the charges against him and was ordered held without bail.”
  • “Public outrage over the jury’s verdict in Hinckley’s trial — not guilty by reason of insanity — prompted Congress to make it much more difficult to establish that claim in federal criminal trials.
  • According to Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, prior to the Hinckley case Loughner’s “would be a clear case of insanity because the pre-meditation would not be seen as undercutting insanity, it would be part of demonstrating insanity.” However, under the current rules, which were created because of the Hinckley case Loughner’s lawyers will have a “very uphill battle.”
  • “‘Arizona also has modified the insanity defense so that a defendant in a state trial no longer can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead, the jury can deliver a verdict of guilty but insane,’ said Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall. ‘So the person is held at a state mental hospital, and if sanity somehow comes back, he’s transferred to prison, not just let go,’ LaWall said.”
  • “The case against Loughner is at an early stage, as is his defense.”
  • “Among arguments that could be made is that, if not insane, Loughner was ‘mentally impaired’. That argument concedes that a defendant bears some responsibility for what he has done, but lacks the guilt necessary to face the death penalty. The compromised state of mind sometimes is referred to as ‘diminished capacity.'”
  • “Dershowitz predicted that federal officials will seek death for Loughner no matter what his lawyers argue. ‘The prosecution will seek the maximum punishment in a case like this,’ he said.”
  • “A veteran of death cases, San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, led the team that represented Loughner at his court appearance Monday. Clarke succeeded in negotiating a guilty plea and a life sentence for the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski. She also helped spare the life of serial bomber Eric Rudolph and Susan Smith, convicted of drowning her little boys.”

Understanding Meta-Values

Note: We — as a society — feel it would not be fair to subject an insane murderer to the death penalty, but we DO consider it fair to a mentally stable person. But when John Hinckley was found “not guilty by reason of insanity,” people felt that was going too far. They corrected it by making it more difficult to use the insanity defense, and Arizona came up with a very practical correction. Since the concern with Hinckley was that, if and when he could convince mental health professionals that he no longer was insane, he would be free, Arizona got rid of the “not guilty by reason of insanity” finding and replaced it with the “guilty, but insane” finding.

This responds to our society’s sense that it isn’t fair to treat an accused killer who is mentally impaired as we would an accused person with full mental capacity. And yet, they managed to fix the problem of murderers who might claim insanity to take advantage of our society’s sense of “fairness.”

By the way, what kind of value — in the Bleiker Hierarchy of Values (you have the diagram of what I call the “squashed wedding cake” in the handouts from the January 2011 Brownbag session) — is this value? This value that says “While it is OK to execute a murderer, it is not OK if he/she is mentally impaired”. . . .?

Deciphering Between Higher and Object-Related Values

Let’s explore the levels of values . . .

  • “Life” . . . is actually an Object-Related value (as I mentioned in relation to one person’s question during the Brownbag session)
  • “The Right to Life” . . . is a Meta-Value (i.e. a value about a value) — because it is ABOUT another value: Life.
  • “The Death Penalty” . . . is a Meta-Meta-Value (i.e. a value about a meta-value) — because it is about a Limitation to a Right.
  • “The Death Penalty is ruled out for mentally impaired killers” . . . is a Meta-Meta-Meta-Value — because it is a Limitation on the Meta-Meta-Value of the Death Penalty being OK.

Become a Student of American Values

Well, it’s this kind of stuff that I delve into as a “Student of American Values,” and strongly encourage you to do the same in order to better understand your PAIs, and even yourself.

Next time you read your own newspaper, find instances on your own that offer insight into what we as a society debate when there is a collision of values . . . Because that’s when it gets interesting, when — for example — we DO want to dish out severe punishment to a murderer, but we also want to be “fair.” We are then, in such an instance, forced to figure out just what we MEAN by “fair.”

There are many reasons you need to become a “Student of American Values.” One major reason is that if you insist on earning a living by working in the public-sector; you BETTER understand your public’s values . . . ESPECIALLY what I call their “higher values.” And, the reason you really need to become a lifelong “Student-of-Values” is that understanding Americans’ Higher Values is a real challenge. They are MUCH more complicated than you’d think. That’s why I feel obligated to help you gain insights into them as best I can. . .

Using the Stagelights Tactic

What Can I Do When Some Stakeholders Play Dirty?

In discussing how the Stagelights Tactic gets stakeholders who play dirty to clean up their act, I wanted to add a subtle – but very important – point.

The Stagelights shame the player into better behavior; that much is observable. Psychologically, however, what I believe REALLY happens is this: the misbehaving stakeholders discover – because the bright Stagelights don’t allow them to ignore it – that their misbehavior is violating THEIR OWN values.

Why Most People Will Choose to Stop Playing Dirty

Remember from the previous Brownbag session on American Values (January 2011), what happens when something (such as our own misbehavior) violates our values: our Quality-of-Life suffers. Well, we don’t like that. So, we may choose to do ourselves a favor: often times, we choose to change our behavior so that it aligns with our personal values.

Notice, we do this for the SELFISH reason of not doing any further damage to our own Quality-of-Life.

Looking at the Values Hierarchy (page 18 of the February 2011 Brownbag handout), the values that most likely are involved in this 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels of that hierarchy:

  • Level 2: Process-Related Values, i.e. issues of Fairness
  • Level 3: Meta-Values, which are issues of Rights, Freedoms, and Liberties
  • Level 4: Meta-Meta-Values, are issues of Responsibilities . . . which is the same as Limitations of Rights, Freedoms, and Liberties

What’s going on psychologically with the Stagelights Tactic is yet another reason for you to become a “Student of Values.” And, with that, of course, we’re talking about American Values. Americans have amazingly similar 2nd, 3rd, and 4th – level Higher Values.

That’s why in the Stagelights examples that I gave (the US Forest Service’s overhaul of its Electronic Site Leasing Fees in New Mexico and in Arizona, the Land-Use Planning incident in Laramie, WY where the Mayor talked out of both sides of his mouth, and the Los Angeles planning case where an LA City Councilor did the same thing) we could predict that – once the misbehaving stakeholders HAD TO look at their behavior – because the public-at-large was looking at that behavior – they would choose to change it.

But, as I warned you during the Brownbag session: Don’t rush into the Stagelights Tactic. It DOES constitute a form of hardball. Be sure you’ve thought it through. Be sure to “get license” to use it (which is NOT the same as asking for permission to use it.) BEFORE you go very far with it.

Remember the key phrase in getting the public’s and the stakeholders’ license: “We owe it to you . . . We owe it to you to tell you who we’re talking to, what we’re hearing, what we’re thinking . . .“

Of equal importance, be sure the light you shine is directed at the person’s behavior, not the person directly. This is the underpinning of providing constructive criticism, rather than destructive criticism.