By Kevin Meyer
For a couple years I've been giving you snippets of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's leadership style. Sure he has a lot of detractors, but there's a lot that pretty much everyone must admit he does right. From an open and literally transparent visual workplace…
Bloomberg made City Hall "see-through." All meeting rooms had glass
windows, so you could look inside. His desk and those of his staff were
clustered in a room without walls to facilitate better and faster
To voice of the customer – which requires the unfortunately unique skill in politics of actually knowing who the customer is…
Bloomberg sees New York City as a corporation, its citizens as
customers, its sanitation workers, police officers, clerks, and deputy
commissioners as talent. He is the chief executive.
"Good companies listen to their
customers, No.1," he says. One month after being sworn in, Bloomberg
proposed a 311 line that would allow New Yorkers to report everything
from noise pollution to downed power lines. Since it launched in March,
2003, 311 has received 49 million calls. Emergency
911 traffic is down by 1 million calls since 311's inception, meaning
first responders are being called to fewer non-emergencies.
As someone who also feels unrepresented by either major political party, I even thought he might make a decent presidential candidate. At least he would have had the experience of actually running an organization and bureaucracy and not be woefully over his head on day one. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he didn't take me up on that idea.
Last Friday Bloomberg was sworn in for his third term as Mayor of New York City. Third terms are usually bad news for both the elected and the constituents, and the effort and cost he had to incur to obtain a third term is probably not a good sign. Even if a guy has good ideas and good motivation, a rut is still often a rut. So we'll have to see.
But among his calls for a unique combination of fiscal prudence and social activism – which once again forces him into the independent category that I also share – he showed his penchant for management reform.
While repeating themes stressed in the past
promoting volunteerism, immigration and efforts to save energy and
reduce pollution, he also announced an experiment beginning next week,
assigning each first deputy commissioner to a different agency in a
three-week effort to reduce bureaucracy.
“We intend to break down the bureaucratic barriers
that too often impede innovation, compromise customer service, and cost
taxpayers money,” the city’s 108th mayor said. “This is a management
challenge, and a unique opportunity for collaboration and innovation.”
He also offered city aides his trademark first-day advice: “Don’t screw
I know many of us have contemplated similar programs of rotating department heads and even executives, but how many of us have swallowed the fear and actually done it? Cross-training among shop floor folks is common (in non-union shops unfortunately) and the benefits show nearly immediately. Besides flexibility, there is a better understanding of each others' issues and concerns which leads to improved communication and coordination. A different set of eyes also has the ability to see waste and opportunity where the blinders of experience may not.
So who wants to volunteer to be Quality Manager for a week or two? Anyone? If yours is like most organizations, that's one of those very difficult jobs that everyone beats up on yet everyone fears. Why? Perhaps that's an opportunity for improved understanding (and sympathy?) that would help the organization as a whole.