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Obama's Challenge: Communicating a Framework for Change


One of the most difficult tasks for a newly appointed CEO is effective communication of his change agenda.

How does a change agent like Obama layout his vision in a simple and straightforward manner? How does he cut through the clutter of the competing agendas in Washington? How does he move to rebuild America?

It struck me that the three box strategy framework could be applied to U.S. government just as effectively as we apply it to business innovation.


Box 1: Managing the Present
In government, this means focusing on the pressing issues of immediate consequence like the financial crisis, for example. Obama has had to be in fire-fighting mode from day one. Despite the doomsayers, we can see evidence that our slide into recession has slowed. And we see programs like "cash for clunkers" actually make a serious difference in consumer buying patterns while simultaneously helping the environment.

Box 2: Selectively Abandon the Past
In Obama's case, he has had to work hard to change our reputation in the rest of the world. By signaling his intent to listen to our allies and partners, he has taken concrete steps to abandon Bush's policy of unilateralism. By beginning the process of closing Guantanamo, he has reversed the Bush policy on torture. He has taken a firm stance on Israel's continuing settlement policy, which demonstrates America's re-engagement in the Middle East Peace process. New roads will no longer be built in our National Parks.

Box 3: Create the Future
Nowhere has Obama met greater opposition than in his plans for the future. The status quo doesn't want change, and they are using all available resources to block it. From health care to energy to global warming, powerful special interests are creating change difficult, if not impossible. Unfortunately, we need these changes now if we are to rebuild America.

In my opinion, Obama's challenge is to frame these changes in a simple yet comprehensive way to help citizens understand what is at stake. This Wednesday's speech on Health Care Reform will provide a glimpse of whether he has taken the challenge of real change seriously. I hope for the country's sake he has.