The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Problem Solved
Thursday, April 26th, 2007
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
There has been nothing new at The Nossiter Net for nearly eight weeks.  The reason:  tech sabotage. Yahoo Geocities, the host for this site, has denied access for the entire period.  At one point, they even managed to lose all the files.  In many discussions with Yahoo staff, no clear explanation was forthcoming.  No one seemed able to fix the problem.  Ruling out the possibility of Dubbya’s revenge, I finally wrote to Mr. Terry Semel, Chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Inc and described the ordeal the page has undergone since the beginning of March.  A week later, a helpful Yahooo engineer named Jason called.  He had my letter before him.  Though he couldn’t do the repairs on on the spot, he promised a fix by the next day.  Today.  Nearly two months after shutting me down in the first place.

The Nossiter Net apologizes, which is more than I can say for Yahoo Geocities.

                              * * * *    

MBAs are trained to solve problems quickly and decisively.  So it does the Harvard Business School no credit that its most famous son, President Bush, hasn’t solved Iraq after four long years of mayhem there.  Of course Iraq is no ordinary problem.  Where a Citibank or a Circuit City can renew itself by shedding employees like so many autumn leaves, the rebirth of Iraq is not bought so cheaply.  Citibank, which just fired seventeen thousand workers, doesn’t have millions of refugees, tens of thousands of casualties, an infrastructure in tatters, and unremitting tribal strife on its hands.  OK, strike the lack of tribal strife.

Still, as any MBA knows, applying the analytical tools of the trade inevitably points to the right answer to any problem.  Since Mr. Bush probably wasn’t paying attention during his time on the river Charles, a refresher course in business school thought might help him resolve the difficult question of Iraq.

Put in charge of an enterprise or faced with a critical decision, the well-trained MBA’s first question must be “what business am I in?”  This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often the question fails to be asked.  Daimler Benz, now in big trouble with its money-losing Chrysler subsidiary, landed itself in its present plight for neglecting this elemental query.  Had its executives asked “Vot business are ve in?” the answer would instantly have been “makink unt zellink motorcars.”  That truth properly articulated, Daimler would never have gotten mixed up with a lemon manufacturer like Chrysler in the first place.

What business is Mr. Bush in?  Of course he’s the president of the United States, but that’s too broad an answer.  Mr. Bush’s responsibilities are so wide-ranging, his duties so complex, the enterprises which he nominally directs of such enormous moment that to determine what he actually does, he must scrutinize the activities he really spends time on.  These seem to be, in order of importance, clearing brush, eating breakfast, mountain biking, eating lunch, watching sports on TV, eating dinner, and sleeping.  Notice that killing, maiming, and displacing people has nothing to do with the president’s real business.  MBA style analysis is already bearing fruit.

Once the MBA establishes what business he’s in, the next question is “what changes would improve my business?”  The answer for Daimler is to sell more cars at a higher profit.  For Circuit City, it is to reduce expenses.  Innovative minds there determined to fire all veteran employees, replacing them with raw, and cheap, recruits.  Not that they’re completely heartless. They offered the fired veterans their old jobs back – at the sharply lower new wage scale.  For Mr. Bush, improving his business is easy.  Eat more, sleep more, recreate more, watch more TV.  None of those improvements involves killing, maiming, or displacing thousands.  A pattern is beginning to emerge.

Finally the MBA asks “how do I implement the necessary changes to my business?”  For Daimler, who performed this analysis after the fact, the answer was clear.  Nobody wants lemons, lemon sales drag down profits and damage reputations, therefore get rid of the lemon manufacturer.  That’s why Chrysler is up for sale.

President Bush is similarly finding that the wars he started are cutting into his real business.  He’s approached several retired four star generals to run Afghanistan and Iraq for him, but according to The Washington Post, they all turned him down.*  MBA programs are after all based on officer training courses, and the four stars, having performed their own analysis of the situation, all understood that with Dick Cheney actually managing the wars, their role could only be that of fall guy.

So where does this leave the president?  He should have relied on his training and done the analysis, but since he didn’t, we’ve done the job for him.  Instead of trying to hire a new layer of management to run an enterprise in which he has no business, he must follow Daimler’s example and get rid of the enterprise altogether.  Either sell Iraq to the highest bidder, or give it back to the Iraqis if, as seems likely, no bidder comes forward.   Problem solved, and Mr. Bush can go back full time to what he does best.

As we have seen, MBA style analysis isn’t exactly brain surgery.  It does, however, require a functional brain.


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2007

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