Imagine struggling to lead progress at General Electric, or IBM or any other large business, without a strategic plan. Imagine attempting to allocate capital and other resources in such an organization without a shared vision of purpose and priorities. Unthinkable, impossible — and a recipe for waste, disillusionment and ultimately, disaster.
The federal budget recently proposed by the president, some $4 trillion, is more than 25 times larger than GE’s budget. The federal government’s 2.7 million civilian and military employees outnumber GE’s workforce by nine times. The federal government’s “product lines” are far more diverse and complex than that of any private enterprise. The “customers” of the federal government are at least as demanding as those of GE. Yet the largest institution in the United States, the federal government, operates without a strategic plan. While I applaud the president for delivering a budget before the deadline (the first time in five years — imagine failing to deliver a budget to the board of directors of a publicly traded company on time), the work product suffers badly from the absence of a strategic plan representing a shared vision of where we must go as a nation.
I have operated businesses of scale — on a global basis — for more than 30 years. In this time, I have witnessed managers deliver strategic plans of varying quality for review and ultimate execution. Generally, the well-considered, well-debated and well-communicated plans have attracted greater buy-in by other managers and employees. These plans have also produced better results with fewer missteps and less waste. I am confident that even the less effective plans produce far better outcomes than attempts to move forward with no plan at all.
Much of the waste and mis-prioritized allocation of resources endemic to our current governing process flow directly from the absence of a set of national strategic goals and objectives. Aimed at addressing this absence, No Labels is building a National Strategic Agenda for America’s Next President via exhaustive dialogue among policy experts, business leaders, state and community leaders and members of Congress.
The National Strategic Agenda expresses four widely agreed-upon (based on robust opinion polling), nonpartisan goals for our country — create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; balance the federal budget by 2030; secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; and make America energy secure by 2024.
Most who review these common-sense goals have only one question: “Why haven’t we yet demanded that our national leaders sign on to these goals as a framework to guide their priorities and legislative agenda?”
The National Strategic Agenda is being fleshed out as we speak — putting policy meat on its structural bones — using a highly collaborative, nonpartisan, “shareholder-tested” approach. The final work product will provide politically realistic pathways for achieving the four goals, creating a template for future legislation to be developed by problem-solving legislators of both parties. Currently, there are more than 70 No Labels Problem Solvers in Congress, equally split between parties, who are already engaged in delivering bipartisan legislation and who are committed to the process of establishing the National Strategic Agenda. It is my fervent hope that this document will form the basis for substantive debate in the 2016 national election. And I hope the electorate will demand all candidates move past the ill-mannered name-calling of past election cycles to a substantive, adult discussion focused on shared goals.
We all have a role to play in shaping the nature of the next election and ideally, a new approach to governance in Washington. We can do something — we are this country’s shareholders — and being responsible citizens of a great democracy demands our active participation. Demand that your elected leaders become Problem Solvers if they are not already. In the next election cycle, elect a problem-solving president and problem-solving representatives who are committed to work together to achieve our nation’s strategic goals. Let’s use our power — we, the people — and demand a more rational, strategy-driven approach to lead our country forward.
Andrew Bursky is chairman of Atlas Holdings based in Greenwich. He also is a co-founder of No Labels.