On fixing culture

Megan McArdle discusses the problems at the VA and why Obama can’t fix them. Indeed, why probably no one can fix them. Here’s what she observes about promises that we’ll fix the VA (or most any other institution):

This is the sort of turnaround that a lot of corporate chief executive officers promise: We’ll handle more customers, but faster! Most of them fail, too. And corporate CEOs have a weapon that the president doesn’t: They can fire most of the staff. When looking at corporate turnarounds for my book on failure, I came across a lot of stories of successful turnarounds, and a lot of them started with just that step.

This is a problem with culture. To change the culture, you probably need to change most of the people. That’s a hard message, but I think it is true. It’s true in many educational institutions as well, I fear.

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