America’s current state is looking a lot like that of a multi-national corporation that’s completely lost touch with its original vision and mission, and one that doesn’t appear to care particularly about the people it serves. With a period of short-lived success and global notoriety, it racked up a mountain of debt in the process and is suffocating its competitiveness and creating a massive cash-flow crisis. With leadership gridlock America can’t invest in what matters because it has to service $15,000,000,000,000 of debt.
When a distressed company hits this level of financial pain it implodes, goes into bankruptcy, fails or benefits from a turnaround so it can live to fight another day. For a turnaround to stand a chance, leadership needs to agree on a plan forward, chart a new vision, cut costs and focus on driving the business forward. Alternatively, the existing leadership needs to be fired and a turnaround CEO bought in, one who has a proven track record and the leadership skills to mobilize internal teams, strategically deploy assets, partner with suppliers and banks, and direct employees to execute a strategy that moves the business to a clear future state. This new leader must be able to make the tough decisions and the hard choices, fixing things that are fixable, cutting the things that aren’t, addressing the challenges head-on and getting the entire team doing their part, not just talking about it.
To be successful in a turnaround, there are two essential ingredients for transformation. The first is agreeing on the problem that needs to be solved and the second is building trust among all stakeholders so the best minds can come together to solve the problem.
Why can’t America employ some of these same tactics?
The posturing, noise and rhetoric of Washington has to stop now and our leaders must step back and clearly state the problem that needs solving. Then, they must learn to work together, agreeing on a timeframe to solve the problem and to roll up their sleeves with a sense of urgency to actually develop a plan to solve the problem and not just defer it.
The Penny Plan
There’s one plan on the table that got my attention. It’s easy to understand and it gets the job done. The One Percent Spending Reduction Act, or the “Penny Plan” as it’s been coined on Capitol Hill looks like it’s the best of the plans on the table. The objective of the “Penny Plan” legislation is to balance the budget by bringing overall spending down to the historic average for revenues to 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Over a ten-year period, the “Penny Plan” would cut spending by $7.5 trillion, and balance the budget by 2019—with deficits eliminated, and our country back on a firm path towards fiscal health. The other plans don’t come close. What are we waiting for? Let’s tell the story, sign the papers and get on with it.
Ask what you can do for your country
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and be critical of our government, but it’s up to each of us to get involved, to rally around the issues we care about and do our part to help solve the problems we face. Our country has a massive debt and it’s time to deal with it. We face climate issues, and we are contributing to them daily. When given a challenge, America has always answered the call.
Kennedy said “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
We need a clear vision of the problem and the possible solutions, a plan and then immediate action or we will continue to swim around in this sea of stagnation. It’s time for courageous action to address the debt, the spending and the waste. It’s our money and our future so we need to insist it gets solved and get involved. It’s time to activate American ingenuity and industriousness to change the direction we are headed.
The Great American Turnaround
We need to change the headlines from arguments and gridlock to the Great American Turnaround. We’re addicted to compelling stories and content like PSY’s Gangnam Style (it racked up over 1.3 billion views on YouTube) or cause-related stories like Kony 2012 (94 million views) or the 80 million LiveStrong bracelets sold to raise funds for cancer. America’s got a problem that the majority of us aren’t involved in, so now’s the time to share a story that gets Americans involved in solving the one of the biggest problems this country has ever faced.
Do you Give a Buck?
Imagine choosing to donate $1 or more every paycheck to the “Dollar Save Club.” Think: Kickstarter and Kiva for America, a fund that can be used to invest in and build domestic projects like the national electric grid, high-speed Internet, bridges, roads, tunnels, airports, high-speed rail, and even people. We the people could be part of the solution. Americans love a challenge, so rather than being passive, apathetic, sidelined victims waiting for our leaders to do something, we the people can show the rest of the world, that we are capable of solving our own problems.
Imagine every major retailer, credit card company and bank allowing consumers to “Give a Buck” when paying for groceries, for meals and so on. We’re doing it already. And while bracelets, stickers and posters seem old school, “I Give a Buck” could show involvement and resolve to solve the problem. With millions of Americans and every corporation in America participating every day, every week and every month, we could go a long way to showing that we can solve the issue, and, just as importantly, solve our disconnected attitude to the greatest challenge we face as a nation.
Do you give a buck?
Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego. Clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.
[Image: Flickr user Lindsey K M]