June 26, 2006

Is There a Project Manager in the House?

After weekend reports that General George Casey had developed a plan for drawing down U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the Bush Administration has stated that the plan is not "engraved in stone," and is only one element of potential scenario building. Democrats reacted angrily for having been labeled "cut and run" by Republicans in the House and in the Senate last week when they proposed a similar course of action, and wondered aloud whether the GOP would now label the U.S. military in the same way.

Joe Gandelman over at The Moderate Voice has an excellent piece about the nature of this story, and the likelihood that it is a carefully orchestrated and "official" leak from the White House potentially tied to the midterm elections, so I won't belabor that point here. However, what remains stunning to me is that there is still no discussion of the specific conditions that will allow withdrawal. Troop levels are mentioned, along with an admonishment that force reductions will be dictated by conditions on the ground, but again there are zero specifics in the public debate.

As I stated in my last post, without success criteria, it is impossible to tell whether or not this, or any other plan is achieving the goals for which it was designed. Absent milestone metrics, General Casey could just as easily announce that the U.S. will be bringing 100% of its troops home by July 4th as long as "conditions on the ground" support it. Of course we know that conditions on the ground would have to execute a miraculous turnaround to allow anything like an Independence Day homecoming, but unless we can truly tie force draw-downs to interim goals, such a bold scheme is no less substantive than Casey's reported plan.

Management guru Tom Peters coined a phrase that has taken solid hold among operations managers in private industry: "What gets measured gets done." Clearly the Bush Administration is not going to talk about how to measure the criteria for American withdrawal from Iraq, and drawing from that rule of thumb, our expectations for the level of actual execution should be commensurately low. This is fertile ground for the Democrats, who should spend less time on non-binding resolutions, and more on specific plans of action.


Anonymous said...

Had anyone considered the fact that the NYT posted the plan was a pre-planned 'LEAK' by the Administration to prove a point?

PBI said...

I'm not sure I see the relevance. My post was intended to address the effectiveness of the plan (any plan in fact), and not the White House's creative use of the press for test marketing.