Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Conference Rooms and Potted Plants

Reading the Steven Rattner book on the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies/bailouts.  As he used to be a reporter, it's a well written narrative, and I'm enjoying it.  I gather it was his first experience on the inside of a governmental bureaucracy, and he has a sharp eye for how it operates. A couple of the bureaucratic touches:
  • "potted plants", which is the internal name for the people who stand behind the President as he's giving comments or making an announcement.  Rattner mourns one occasion where he and his aides didn't even make that status, being pre-empted by assorted cabinet secretaries.
  • conference rooms.  Early on his group had a problem locating a conference room within the Treasury Department to hold a meeting in.  He says, or implies, there were a number of such rooms in the building, but each room was the property of a different agency within the department, so identifying a free one was difficult.  If I remember this used to be the case in USDA, but somewhere towards the end of my tenure there someone at the departmental level at least created a consolidated list for secretaries to work from, if not a single person in charge of scheduling.  Such things are an example of why the first priority of any ad hoc group leader should be to grab an experienced, top-flight secretary.

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