Advancing American Exceptionalism
Whether it be an academic institution, a large corporation, or even a government agency, we need to get more people in leadership positions focused on setting the right direction to quality and global leadership in order to re-establish American exceptionalism.
This exceptionalism brought the United States through the 20th century with the creation of the steel age, the age of the automobile, the age of mass production, the age of flight, the atomic age, the computer age, the information age, the Internet age, and the emerging mobile age of commerce utilizing smartphones, tablets, and drones.
Forget about those quality methodologies as well as management buzz-phrases which sound pretty hollow compared to some of today’s realities in the American workplace. The real focus should be put on the struggle to get employees as well as managers and key executives out of the mental grasp of the Vortex of Declining Mediocrity.
The Vortex of Declining Mediocrity is the unknown psycho-magnetic, depressive mental force which pulls down morale, and consequently, performance and productivity. It creates a doom-loop to eventual failure. It’s out there in virtually every industry, academic institution, and government agency.
What is the Vortex of Declining Mediocrity?
It is the downward swirling negative psychological pull apparent in all organizations, especially those that have just gone through a downsizing, a non-productive re-engineering, general mismanagement or other traumatic, negative experience to its staff. It attracts everyone in its path and some immediately fall into its downward performance spiral because they are comfortable with its false sanctuary.
The Vortex provides an excuse for poor performance and if used enough, provides an “easy way out” – not only for the individual, but also for the leadership of the organization.
Classical Theory X managers have always known about this phenomenon and created a pressure environment for taking care of the slackers and those not concerned about performing well. “No one wants to work and they must be constantly watched and motivated,” was the classic observation of these micro-managing, Theory X managers of the 1930s.
Theory Y managers tried to ignore Theory X as well as the Vortex and its negative influence by creating a more positive, country club environment for employees to work in. “Everyone wants to work and contribute – give them a chance.” This was the observation of Theory Y managers.
In the Japanese economic boom of the 1980s, Theory Z managers also looked the other way on the negative motivations, but did acknowledge the threat of the Vortex. They created a team approach to overcome and work against the forces of the Vortex. “Together as a team, we will overcome failure and drive to success!” was the mantra of Theory Z managers from Japan.
Who created the Vortex?
It was created by several diverse sources: management, politicians, educators, society, peers as well as efforts of individuals, themselves. As people get away with doing less and less in their respective jobs, they expect more reward for less effort and the overall quality level slips. This applies to organizations and their customer service levels as well.
Some managers and executives will acknowledge this performance slip to irritated customers by saying “that’s the best we can do.” This rationalization is readily apparent in many occupations including the trades, where highly-skilled craftsmen used to be.
Now, in these occupational areas reside the “Good Enough’s” – an apathetic worker or tradesperson who looks at the finished, flawed job and says, “That’s ‘good enough’ for this job.” As one carpenter said to me about a quick construction job being hastily done, “Hey, we ain’t building a Steinway here.”
Others might notice the slip in service or product quality, but not be willing to pay for excellence. “I know I am not getting the service or quality I used to, but look, I saved all of this money – you know these guys are cheaper.”
Where is the Vortex?
The Vortex is everywhere. It can be found in the workplace, the airlines, the Post Office, the government, the courts, schools, and other bureaucratic organizations. It is apparent anywhere you see customers accepting less than what they should, in terms of service, product quality, and other deliverables.
An organization’s size, industry, rank, or profitability are all irrelevant qualifiers for potential organizations which could succumb to Theory V. The lack of leadership is a more likely organizational catalyst for the Vortex to appear.
Examples about poor public education could fill volumes of books, yet where are we stopping the Vortex and the downward spiral in this institution? Is it because teachers’ unions are too influential with local, state, and federal legislators to stem reform?
Should public school teachers get an increase for turning out graduates who cannot read, spell, or add? What about withholding increases if there are an excessive number of dropouts who never finish school? Who should be accountable when someone has graduated high school but does not know that New Mexico is a state within the Union and not a country?
Maybe we should shatter the whole institution of public schools and build education on a new platform. Re-engineering the Public School system is long overdue – ask any student who does not get the education he or she needs to survive in today as well as tomorrow’s global job market.
Many leaders in society fail to see that the institution of the public school was an outgrowth of the industrial age where a uniform structured workforce was needed to fuel the workforce of large factories.
The three R’s which were necessary to succeed in those jobs were: Rote, Repetition, and Routine. Those were the skill sets emphasized. They are not the ones needed for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. That is why there is such a disconnect between high school grads and the jobs they are trying to attain.
The public school and its regimentation for routine jobs is an anachronism. It doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be replaced.
All the people who are in charge of this oftentimes, “financial black hole” need to be replaced as well. They don’t have solutions, they are there to perpetuate their existence as well as their paychecks.
Higher Education is not exempt
“You get out what you put in.” This well-worn phrase seems to oversimplify the concept, but it hits the nail on the head. If a student does not put forth the effort to get an “A,” should he whine when he gets a “C”? There is a lot of grade inflation even at the college level because anything less than an “A” is unacceptable – especially to those on tuition reimbursement from their employer.
A “B” might mean 80% reimbursement instead of 100%. Grades matter more than what knowledge the student walks away with from many classes. This importance is also reinforced to the recent graduate by human resource departments at many organizations who are too focused on a graduate’s grade point average as a major, if not singular, evaluation criteria.
Many schools which do not fully develop the college student into understanding there are diverse points of view and management styles, are creating a poor class of workers who will not assimilate into the intense, multi-cultural diversity of the global workforce. Safespaces with crayons is not an amenity at any corporate facility.
What’s needed for today’s Mobile Internet Age are the skill sets of Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology (FACT) skills. These FACT-Based skills should be focused on not only in higher education, but also at the high school level (Public schools) as well.
Why political correctness fuels Theory V
Values have to be taught at a young age. Self-responsibility for an individual’s action and performance as well as learning how to recover from failure are good survival skills. We all know that no one is perfect and cannot be successful at everything. So teach people how to exploit those skills they do have and develop those that they don’t have or have weaknesses with.
Treat all people with the respect that you would want – and you won’t need to develop a “diversity” class. Don’t pass everyone and rely on the false fact that everyone in a global society will be following “the politically correct” agenda when they encounter each other. They don’t. And those who have been coddled by artificial rules and “Trophies for Participation” will get a serious wake-up call in the real world and other less-accommodating cultures.
People seduced and trapped in the Vortex despise those who are not pulled in by its force. Someone who has overcome the Vortex is pretty powerful, no matter what job or industry affiliation he may have. They are dynamic, confident and motivated to succeed. This ability grates on those caught up in the excuses, whining, politics, and ultimate failure of the Vortex. They are jealous of the individual who has beaten the Vortex’s power.
How do you reverse the Vortex’s downward pull of performance and morale? A strong leader or a positive role model is important to have. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “He who has the wheel, sets the direction.”
The person who is at the helm of any organization really establishes the course of being successful, or running the people and resources into the downward spiral of the Vortex.
Excerpted from Advancing American Exceptionalism in the 21st Century by James Carlini. Copyright © 2017 by James Carlini. Excerpted with permission by James Carlini. To be published by The Carlini Press, a Division of CARLINI & ASSOCIATES.