The Heritage Foundation Gets a Taste of Its Own Medicine

If you follow the policy wonkosphere, there has been a series of articles about the shakeup at the conservative faithtank, the Heritage Foundation. This is the really crazy bit (boldface mine):

…a number of scholars and academic think tank types have left the organization, presumably distressed by the new regime’s management methods. Those methods do sound quite annoying, though:

DeMint also shared another bond with the two men: unlike the Heritage ruling class of yore, none of them had Ph.D.s. All three, however, had MBAs. Their preference for incentivizing behavior on the Hill with scorecards and primary challenges was “a very MBA approach to politics,” the former scholar noted ruefully. “There’s really no room there for deliberation or argument.”

Once he took the helm, DeMint set about reorganizing the business. Under Feulner, the Heritage Foundation ran as a decentralized confederation of so-called research silos—health care, national security, education—whose staffers each focused on a specific area. DeMint instituted a system of multidisciplinary teams that sprung up depending on the issue of the day that Heritage happened to be pushing. Moreover, now a Heritage staffer’s career trajectory was tied to the success or failure of that team.

You mean… compensation and advancement were tied to performance? That sounds like standard corporate management best-practices to me. It also sounds like something Heritage has spent years trying to implement in public schools.

Yes, what happened to Heritage — what has old Heritage hands appalled and quitting or talking to liberal New Republic reporters — is what Heritage has long argued should happen to basically all large American institutions, from the schools to the government to corporations. They are gutting the place and remaking it according to business school rules divined from decades of corporate consulting and leveraged buyouts. The overpaid, under-performing old-timers obviously don’t like it, but the new Heritage is more efficient without them.

It’s just interesting how so many of them object to being at the mercy of some business school assholes with no respect for credentials or experience, though.

As the old saw goes, a liberal is a middle-aged conservative who has been mugged by a thirty-something MBA. Or something.

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1 Response to The Heritage Foundation Gets a Taste of Its Own Medicine

  1. Robert L Bell says:

    Unimaginative and draconian application of textbook MBA methods do not lead to happy PhDs? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

    As a PhD scientist who took some business school classes and learned quite a bit, I have to observe that there is a tremendous gap between what is known by the ivory tower business academics and the methods used by ideologically motivated thugs to club their underlings into submission.

    My management instructor, who was in fact an incredible supergenius, was very careful that we understood how there is Efficiency and there is Effectiveness; that these two worthy goals are in dynamic tension; and that a good manager has to be very careful to strike the correct balance between the two. It is clear that the market fundamentalists are so enthralled with efficiency that they are willing to obliterate effectiveness in order to enforce their point.

    Which is really happy news for us, the Good Guys, in the case of the Heritage Foundation.

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