by Joe Carideo
Earlier this week, President Obama announced he will nominate former Proctor & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Should we be surprised that the President chose someone outside of the public sector to clean up the VA? I don’t think so. In fact, an executive from the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector is a logical fit for a number of reasons:
1. CPG leaders are accustomed to running large, multi-facility, organizations.
Throughout the congressional hearings about the VA’s latest debacles, it’s become clear that structure of the VA – dispersed and hierarchical – created challenges for their leadership. McDonald, and any other executive from the CPG sector or the industrial sector (GE, 3M, for example), have experience operating large companies that span the globe, reaching billions of customers and managing hundreds of thousands of employees. The VA needs a leader that can navigate bureaucracy and make ground-level improvements.
2. CPG Executives Are Focused on Constant Performance Measurement.
In the CPG sector, performance is top-of-mind, as executives receive sales reports on daily basis. A constant stream of performance data can be overwhelming, but successful CPG leaders know how to work with their leadership teams to balance daily performance management with long-term strategic goals. For McDonald, the key will be creating a meritocracy within the VA, cleaning up the performance measurement processes, and fostering a performance-driven culture.
3. CPG Executives Are Accountable to Multiple Stakeholders.
When corporate executives move to the public sector, some can’t handle the red tape and interference by Congress. However, McDonald, and other executives with similar backgrounds, know what it’s like to be accountable to multiple stakeholders with competing interests: shareholders, employees, and customers. McDonald will need to improve the VA’s reputation with taxpayers (his experience with branding will help), meet Congressional demands, and, most importantly, ensure that the VA is providing excellent services to veterans and their families.