Who is James Heskett, you ask, as you rifle through your list of authorities on defense and strategy?
Forget defense and think services and service delivery. Heskett, in concert with Sasser and Schlesinger, are acknowledged masters in the field of services. And what is government if not a services providers to its customers aka citizens who must periodically renew their subscription service, i.e. vote.
Where do I want to start? Customer recovery. Clients want flawless service but they are generally realists and understand that things break periodically. What is essential in retention is how the seller recovers -- how well and how fast. Heskett has said, "Customer retention results from customer satisfaction, which is determined largely by the value the customer perceives."
I maintain that people only buy, and keep buying, for two reasons; to make themselves happy, or to remove themselves from fear or want. If I don’t do either in sufficient numbers, why would anyone "buy" from me? In a 1997 article, I wrote that, "Customer dissatisfaction measures can be more revealing than satisfaction measures. Customer retention rates, repurchase rates, and defection rates are critical as leading indicators of future customer behavior."
Whether you agree or disagree with the current administration, I will 'lead the witness' by suggesting there is a sufficient amount of dissatisfaction that could result in a change of service provider. Heskett often remarks that poor service is by design, that "[most] service failures are not failures… They have been designed into the system by choices senior management have made [creating] a self-reinforcing system that establishes a cycle of failure. The current administration inherited much from it predecessors and can but with difficulty make sweeping changes. The best that it can hope for is a laser-like attention to items that reflect the needs of the time.
This is where I submit that the president needs Heskett more than he needs Rove. If you read Tom Friedman, you know where I am going: Apologize, say what you have learned, what you will do differently, i.e., recover, and move on. Americans are a reasonably forgiving lot.
Where is an apology needed? If you read either Jeffrey Record or Dick Clarke, it is that al Qaeda was not a top concern for the White House. (I listened sympathetically to Condoleezza Rice's testimony and heard nothing new in this respect.) Second, some of the president's direct reports guessed wrong as to what was the correct priority order for administration attention. Terrorism as we now know it was not in the five top issues of the administration.
For me, the central theme of Rice's testimony was what I would call an "infrastructure defense," that it was the infrastructure that failed a sitting president. Were I a Democratic advisor I would be overjoyed at the prospect of using this to beat the administration. How? Simply because in any failed or uncommunicative infrastructure, corporate or government, it is precisely the ability to "shake the trees" over a critical issue that knocks enough heads together to allow actionable information to flow. But if you did not choose the right reason for tree shaking, or did not shake at all, then that could be construed as a fundamental lapse in vision or leadership.
I wish this were not an election year as I fear that a knee-jerk attack or defense of the sitting president will muffle or distort recommendations that must, must, change the way that our internal (FBI et al) and external (CIA et al) intel assets function.
If any of you have read the Western human target manifesto that has risen on al Qaeda sites, you might surmise that, here and abroad, you and I need all the help we can get.