Saturday, November 16, 2013


By Charles Snow

In his book The (Mis)management of America, Inc., Lawrence G. Hrebiniak uses the metaphor of a large corporation and applies it to the U.S. economy. He examines how top management -- the White House and Congress -- runs the country and artfully describes a "perfect storm" of irresponsible top executives managing a corporation whose customers (U.S. citizens) are  largely disengaged and misinformed. The consequences are potentially catastrophic. Although the book is five years old, its thesis is still valid -- perhaps even more so given the events that have unfolded over the past few years.

From a management perspective, consider how closely the U.S. resembles a large corporation. America, Inc. is a $3.5 trillion business. It is diversified, operating businesses in defense, health care, banking, science, education, and many other industries. It hires people, fires people, has retirement programs, makes money, loses money, and so on. The company called America, Inc. is larger, more diversified, and more powerful than Wal-Mart, IBM, Exxon Mobil or any other company in the world.

Professor Hrebiniak, who has studied and written about corporate strategy and behavior for over forty years, gives the top managers of America, Inc. a failing grade. He shows how accepted management practices -- and even common sense -- are regularly violated when it comes to running the country. For example, we all know that individual households and business firms should not become overburdened with debt. Yet America, Inc. is so far into debt that it would take years of determined effort just to get debt levels back to manageable levels. In the meantime, paying interest on the national debt, coupled with operating the military, takes 40 cents of every dollar the country spends. Most managers understand that a company should not waste its resources. But America, Inc. operates 64 intelligence agencies, few of which communicate with each other or share knowledge. Hrebiniak, who has consulted with some of these agencies, argues that it would be easy to design three main organizations -- one for domestic intelligence (the FBI), one for foreign intelligence (CIA), and one for the military -- which, by sharing their intelligence findings rather than hoarding them, would be more effective and less costly. Management textbooks, including those written by Hrebiniak, always stress the importance of having clear lines of authority and accountability. And yet America, Inc. frequently holds no one accountable when an expensive program or project fails. These are only a few of the examples of (mis)management discussed in this interesting book.

The (Mis)management of America, Inc. is a well-documented, easy-to-read book that lays out the current state of our country's management. It is a needed wake-up call for America, Inc.'s customers -- you and me -- and it urges us to get more involved in how the company is run.


1 comment:

  1. Amazon didn't recognize the title. Can you supply the ISBN number?


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