Beach Balls or Bee Bees?

January/06/2011 16:24PM
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In my years as a business executive, I witnessed what I used to ball the beach ball to beebe phenomenon. It had to do with cajones or the courage of your conviction. When a tough issue was under debate proponents of moving in one direction would stand up and give their argument for their position. They would be unshakable in their conviction and make convincing arguments for that position. Their courage was visible. Like most companies, we managed by committee. The bigger the issue, the higher the solution had to go for ultimate approval. Some went to the Board of Directors.

At almost every stop in any approval process were the people who were against the proposal. Sometimes it was the person at the head of the table with the power. Sometimes that person was me. Other times it was me making the pitch to a higher level of management. One thing I learned in all those years was the test of courage. Informally, I would discuss the proposal with advocates. They would thump the table and beat their chests and show cajones the size of beach balls when challenged informally about their proposal.

On the day of reckoning those same people would change. Confronted with a serious challenge to their proposal, especially it was from the end of the table, they would fold like a cheap suit. The cajones were bee bees. The courage dripped out like sap. I would estimate this happened about 75% of the time. The other 25% fell into two groups.

The first was the courageous stubborn. Those who would risk a career hit to win. But, they were often the ones who retained the beach balls in the face of a losing cause. A proposal that didn’t stand the test of debate or couldn’t compete with more worthy options competing for scarce resources. The other group were the winners. The ones who knew they had a good plan and were willing to take the risk that it might fail. They would face the fire and hang in there and sell the plan. No company had enough of these and ours was no exception.

As I watch the GOP coming into Congress with the fresh endorsement of the voters, I see this same phenomenon. Watching them being questioned about how they are going to cut government expense, I see the bee bees emerging. All beach balls during the campaign, now they have to face the music. I can tell you right now it isn’t going to happen. There is absolutely zero change there will be $100 billion in budget cuts. There is no chance the debt ceiling won’t be raised. I can count on one hand the number with sustaining beach balls. Four or five can’t get it done.

Have you heard one say yet, the DOE hasn’t accomplished anything in 30 years, let’s just shut it down? Or, if we simply the tax code we can let 10,000 IRS employees go. Or, we can sell the post office and save a billion a year. Or, any of the other big steps a corporation would take for survival. You see, this isn’t about survival for them, it’s about survival for us. And, for future generations.

In reality, the likelihood of ever having enough people in power in Washington with beach balls is bleak, at best. Get ready for a big disappointment in the next few months as the bee bees come out and only cosmetic action is taken. I look at young Ben Quayle and I can tell you if he came to me with a proposal I could send him off with his tail between his legs in a heartbeat. He would be ill-prepared for the questions and unwilling to fight for any cause. Sad, but true.

It will take a Jim Demint or a Chris Christie to retain the beach balls and there aren’t many of them around.

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