October 20, 2012

TIME FOR A "SERIAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE"

Romney as a Manager: Unhurried and Socratic (MICHAEL BARBARO, SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MICHAEL WINES, 10/19/12, NY Times)

Mr. Romney's bid for the White House largely hinges on his own narrowly drawn image of himself as a chief executive: the data-splicing, cost-cutting turnaround expert. But dozens of interviews with those who have worked for him over the past 30 years -- in the Mormon Church, business, the Olympics and state government -- offer a far more textured portrait of the management style that he might bring to the presidency.

A serial chief executive, the Republican presidential nominee is steeped in management theory and eschews gut instincts. He is not so much a micromanager as a microprocessor, wading deeply into the raw data usually left to junior aides. He entrusts advisers with responsibility, but keeps them on a short leash, monitoring them through a flurry of progress reports and review sessions. Mr. Romney is, colleagues said, "conflict-avoidant." His decision-making process is unhurried and Socratic, his instinct to exhaustively debate and prod.

"He was not somebody who forced decisions to be made before they needed to," said Geoffrey Rehnert, a longtime executive at Bain Capital.

In his approach, there are intriguing echoes of and departures from presidents past. His intensely hands-on style sets him apart from George W. Bush, the self-styled chairman of the board, and Ronald Reagan, who cared only for the big picture and left dirt-under-the-fingernails policy work to his staff. His tendency to immerse himself in the details recalls Lyndon B. Johnson, who closeted himself with Pentagon brass to personally choose targets for American bombers during the Vietnam War. His passion for mastering policy and deliberative decision-making evokes the man he wishes to replace, Barack Obama.

Each president's style resonated across his administration, establishing how staff members functioned and how the public assessed them. "Everything flows from that Oval Office," said Mack McLarty, the chief of staff to Bill Clinton during his first term. "Everyone else, the chief of staff, cabinet members, really start to adapt and work with that."

The president's management, he said, "is the epicenter."

Mr. Romney has shown a genuine talent for recruiting disparate teams (luring top-flight business people into the governor's office), molding a workplace culture from scratch (as the founder of Bain Capital) and establishing priorities (as chief executive of the Olympics, he wrote down and distributed a list of "Five Guiding Principles.")

Posted by at October 20, 2012 10:03 PM
  

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