Hawaii is broken because our local government has drifted into a poor organizational culture and a lack of focus. As the late Peter Drucker famously said, management is doing things right, but leadership is doing the right things.
Sometimes, the government leaders running the show at the State Capitol and elsewhere in Hawaii need to let some nongovernment types have access to the cockpit.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
In Hawaii government, we have a nasty habit of substituting laws for values, bean-counter evaluation for mentorship, micromanagement for attention to detail, logic models for leadership, and do-as-I-say bossiness for expertise.
This kind of environment eats great people and good intentions for lunch. Worse, it makes people risk-averse, which leads to conformity/self-censorship rather than productive collaboration.
Flight crews often hesitated to question an airliner’s captain, because in those days the captain was traditionally viewed as the first and final say on the aircraft, even when they were wrong. Eventually, that organizational culture gave way to a new tradition where frank communication and respectful disagreement was encouraged.
When the explosion occurred, one of the passengers happened to be a DC-10 flight instructor who informed a flight attendant of his expertise and willingness to help.
Imagine if we stopped imposing programmatic “best practices” on people and paid attention to the human lives impacted by the things we do.
The flight attendant listened to the passenger and informed the captain; the captain in turn listened to the flight attendant, and permitted the instructor into the cockpit to help. That quick, responsive feedback between a mere passenger and the captain injected special expertise into a grave crisis and helped save lives.
If a captain allowed a passenger with a desire and the qualifications to help into the cockpit of an airliner, why can’t our local government allow people with concerns to have their say?
Can you imagine if ordinary Hawaii residents could get that kind of access to our governor, or mayor, or the directors of our various departments and agencies? Imagine if we stopped imposing programmatic “best practices” on people and paid attention to the human lives impacted by the things we do.
Our local government needs to learn to respect people’s concerns, both in and especially out of government. When concerns arise, we need to practice CRM by listening to people and when necessary, acting on the information presented to us.
Instead of burying problems, we should work on them together. And when people are wrong, we shouldn’t shame them for making mistakes, because we don’t want people to be shy about speaking up the next time when they might actually be right.
Hawaii’s long-held traditions of inclusion, respect and humility demand a government with an organizational culture that mirrors it.
Gov. David Ige and all of our mayors need to seriously think about how far we have fallen and how much we can take back, if we would simply start listening, respecting and helping each other again.
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Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist, a proud union shop steward, and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.