Gawande noted that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA descended on New Orleans with the Checklists from Hell. They were overly detailed, denied any personal responsibility, and prevented FEMA employees from adapting to the situation on the ground. These government generated checklists, rather than heightening efficiency, rendered government employees ineffectual.Very strong psychological defense mechanisms seem to prevent Democrats from ever having to confront the obvious.
Gawande paused after this description. Around me, all the people in this liberal, elite San Francisco audience nodded their heads wisely. “That dumb Bush and his corrupt administration,” you could practically see them thinking.
By contrast, said Gawande, you could see the effective use of checklists from . . . long pause . . . “Wal-Mart, of all things.” He paused for the obvious laugh line, and the audience obliged. What a joke that the fascist Wal-Mart commercial dictatorship would function better than government. Gawande clearly agreed, yet he went on to describe a Walmart behaving efficiently and humanely during the disaster.
Because its checklists weren’t rigid or overly long, Wal-Mart employees had a certain degree of latitude in the face of an enormous crisis. Ultimately, Wal-Mart asked only that the managers check in with headquarters daily so that they could pool information and exchange ideas. Within one day, while FEMA was still turning away supplies because they weren’t on a given employee’s checklist, Wal-Mart had arranged for free medicine to be handed out to be people who were dependent on their medicine (diabetics, for example). They were also providing essential supplies to FEMA, which was incapable of accessing its own resources.
What neither Gawande nor the audience seemed to comprehend was that this outcome wasn’t surprising, it was obvious. [Emph. added]
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Libs laugh when business works better than government
Last night, Ms. Bookworm attended a talk in San Francisco by Atul Gawande who was promoting his new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. She notes how liberals react when confronted with the inefficiencies of government: