Sunday, January 22, 2017


A message to Governor Ige from past wisdom: “Good intentions might sound nice, but it’s positive actions that matter.” –Tim Fargo

“A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”

“If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.”—Tariq Siddique

by Larry Geller

Business executives and government leaders are measured by their ability to execute—that is, to get results. To do that, somewhere in the organization must be people working hard at planning. Richard Borreca’s column in this morning’s paper describes a disturbing inability to execute on the part of Hawaii’s Governor Ige, who drew praise when he announced that 1,000 classrooms would be air conditioned by year-end.

How come only 42 classrooms were air conditioned last year when the goal was to do 1,000?

Because there was no plan that would have enabled that number of classrooms to be completed. If there had been, either the goal might have been achieved or nearly achieved, or the Department of Education, the public and Governor Ige could have known that some correction would be needed to make it happen.

It is when a plan is completed (tasks identified, people assigned, budget divvied up, timelines drawn, obstacles identified and strategies determined to overcome them, etc.) that an organization knows how (or if) it can achieve its goal. The struggle to complete a plan may also identify that it is impossible. Perhaps the needed funding isn’t available, or time is too short; perhaps the goal was unrealistic to begin with and should be revised.

A goal is not a plan. It’s great for press releases and Power Point presentations, but it does not make things happen.

I like Richard Borreca’s analysis of Governor David Ige’s failure to execute in his On Politics column today.

More nuggets of advice for the Governor on planning

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”—Benjamin Franklin

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.”—Napoleon Hill

“The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go.”—J. P. Morgan

Borreca sounds a note from a bell I’ve been ringing for years: things don’t happen in Hawaii when there is no plan to make them happen.

Although there was much more wisdom in his column, let me snip this part for you:

Twelve months ago, Ige shocked legislators and education bureaucrats alike with his bold announcement that he would air-condition 1,000 classrooms in one year by using funds from a little-used state energy saving program.

Getting chill in class was a non-starter. The Department of Education was caught unaware, the money had to be taken from another budget and the whole project, as of year’s end, totaled 42 classrooms, not 1,000.
“When he does say something it is not followed through with a clear plan of action. If you commit to something, commit to it,” Tokuda said.

[Star-Advertiser p. E1, Fellow Democrats faulting governor for lack of decisiveness and clear leadership, 1/22/2017]

The larger issue is failure to execute on the part of the executive

Now, a leader does not have to do the planning—leaders have people for that. Nor is the problem exclusive to the governor’s office or to this governor—I’ve lamented that the Department of Education, for example, has demonstrated an inability to plan

Governor Ige’s commitment to air conditioning 1,000 classrooms was well received, particularly by overheated students, teachers, and concerned parents.

And then he failed to deliver. That hurts.

Failure to execute is baked into our state culture

In truth, having a plan does not guarantee execution. Too many plans sit gathering dust or lie buried in file cabinets somewhere. A task force or working group might diligently work to put forth a plan only to see their effort ignored. That’s one reason to oppose the creation of task forces, working groups, or studies when a legislative committee proposes them instead of passing a bill. Too often they just want to avoid the bad publicity that killing a popular measure would bring them.

Let’s put this in context. Execution is the responsibility of the executive branch of government. Ige made the commitment, so the failure to execute it is his, and he is being blamed for it, at least in today’s newspaper. But this is not at all an isolated case.

There are plenty of examples of executive failure in Hawaii, often resulting in the state being forced to perform by a federal lawsuit.

Hawaii’s Department of Education, Department of Health, and the Governor’s office (as representative of the State of Hawaii) were hauled into court in 1993 because they could not figure out how to educate special needs students. I found it interesting at the time that the DOH’s Children’s Division published annual reports that regularly stated that (for example) a number of Social Worker I (or IV, or whatever) positions were vacant and would be hired during the new year. The next report was the same, and the next, and the next. So they published a goal to hire the needed personnel to provide services to the children, but never did it. In fact, there was never a plan that would have filled the chronic vacancies.

The fix was exceedingly costly to taxpayers and took more than a decade to resolve.

Other examples would be failure to plan to resolve issues in the State Hospital or in the prisons. For some reason it takes a judge to motivate the state to act.

Note that there is no plan to reduce the record-setting number of senior deaths on the streets. It just goes on from year to year. No plan exists that will achieve a stated goal of better food sustainability—in fact, we are currently taking 35% of Oahu’s best agricultural land out of production for development. There is a goal designed to decrease reliance of fossil fuels by a certain date, and I’d love to see the actual plan published. Perhaps I’ve just missed it.

I’ll close with a biggie: The governor declared homelessness to be an emergency. He renewed his declaration several times. There is still no plan to provide the necessary tens of thousands of housing units to meet Hawaii’s demands. No plan, no housing. Simple. Sad.

“Good intentions might sound nice, but it’s positive actions that matter.”


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