Posts Tagged ‘case pedagogy’

“As governor, Mr. Romney did little direct managing, delegating much of that to his staff, Mr. Kriss said. When addressing challenges, including solving the state’s budget crisis and shaping its universal health care plan, he took an analytical approach. Both efforts began with Bain-style strategic audits,” writes MICHAEL LUO for the NYT in an article titled For Romney & Company, Campaign Is All Business

His style in the campaign is similar, his aides said, with Mr. Romney relying on a circle of lieutenants, many of whom are longtime friends from Bain, the Olympics or the Statehouse, who are familiar with what he expects.

“He describes himself as the chairman of the company and me as the C.E.O.,” said Beth Myers, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager and former Statehouse chief of staff. “He does not manage this campaign.”

Romney’s small-circle of lieutenant-adepti management technique is also the way Romney addressed the health care question in Massachusetts

BOSTON–Only weeks after I was elected governor, Tom Stemberg, the founder and former CEO of Staples, stopped by my office. He told me, “If you really want to help people, find a way to get everyone health insurance.” I replied that would mean raising taxes and a Clinton-style government takeover of health care. He insisted: “You can find a way.”

I believe that we have. Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced. And we will need no new taxes, no employer mandate and no government takeover to make this happen.

When I took up Tom’s challenge, I assembled a team from business, academia and government and asked them first to find out who was uninsured, and why. What they found was surprising … etc.

Here is the result:

Pipes: RomneyCare a spiraling fiscal disaster; does not deliver universal coverage or meaningful structure of cost controls

Here is impression that Romney and Romney’s methodology leaves upon voters:

“It’s often true that our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses,” writes Bruce Wilson in a Salt Lake Tribune release titled Is Romney’s business background a blessing or a curse?

And so it is with Romney. His admirable record of accomplishment in the business world was enabled by the application of analytical skills and business acumen he acquired as a consultant and executive of Bain Consulting and later Bain Capital.

But something else Romney acquired from Bain – dispassionate detachment – makes for a rough campaign road. Anyone who has worked with consultancies and investors like Bain would likely acknowledge they are hired primarily for their minds, analytical skills and access to capital – not their hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. They aren’t heartless. It’s just that the job requires them to keep their hearts in check so tough business decisions – even painful layoffs – are considered.

Dispassionate detachment is necessary in the consulting and investment worlds, but it can be a fatal liability in the political world. In fact, the opposite approach – passionate authenticity – is often more attractive to voters.

There are many examples of this phenomenon, but Ronald Reagan is probably the best case in point. Many voters disliked some of what Reagan stood for but voted for him anyway because they liked the fact that he actually stood for something. They believed Reagan not only because of what he said and did, but also because of how he said it. To many it seemed Reagan’s heart, mind, words and actions were all in-sync … etc.

For our own critique of Romney’s method see:

Romney would organize his administration on the model of an Abbasid Caliph according to Fred Barnes

Who was it who once said, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“While Romney is conservative, his approach to governing is not ideological,” writes Fred Barnes for the Weekly Standard in a puff piece titled The Man Who Wants to Fix Washington

“He’s super-pragmatic,” says an adviser. “He’s an eclectic conservative.” And this has alarmed several conservatives who have met with Romney. “He kept saying he’s a problem solver,” says an economic adviser who believes this would put Romney at a disadvantage in Washington. “He may not be ideological, but Nancy Pelosi certainly will be.”


So what guarantee do we have that Romney will not, on pragmatic grounds, abandon his newly improvised conservative line as quickly or as easily as he acquired it?

Answer: none.


Back to Barnes:

The Romney way is very simple. It consists of attacking a problem or considering an issue or policy through vigorous debate, with dissenting opinions encouraged and outside advice eagerly sought, and relying on as much hard data as possible. At the end of the process, the leader makes a decision that may or may not coincide with the “vision” or “concept” or “framework”—Romney’s words—that initiated the discussion in the first place.

Here’s how Romney describes the process:

You diagnose the problem. You put the right team together to solve the problem. You listen to alternative viewpoints. You insist on gathering data before you make decisions and analyze the data looking for trends. The result of this process is, you hope, that you make better decisions. You typically also have processes in place to see if it’s working or not working, and you make adjustments from time to time.

This is the Romney way? Well, OK., but this is also the Harvard Method, i.e. standard case pedagogy. Here is a description we found at random using google:

Case method teaching as developed by the Harvard Business School is centered on the performance of the professor. Students prepare for class by reading a case study written by experienced case writers, select a strategy and prepare to defend it. If time permits, they discuss their work with a few classmates before coming to class. The real action is in the classroom. The professor, who is a skilled discussion leader, asks provocative questions, pits one student against another, compares alternative solutions and goads the class into reaching significant conclusions [Bonoma, 1989]. Given typically large class sizes, the individual student’s participation consists of one or two verbal contributions and a lot of watching and listening

The curriculum of the top-managerial and executive classes is the case method. Though case instruction invites inquiry and dissent from within a circle of executive adepti and specialists (i.e. the team), it is not a democratic process—it is the precise antithesis of a democratic process or even a political process—it is democratic only in the sense that e.g. the perilous court of an Abbasid Caliph, his wazirs, secretaries, client amirs, tribal elders, mercenary captains, and courtiers—was democratic. A typical business case centers on someone with a decision to make, their story, and lots of various data of varying degrees of relevance. The actor in every case is himself or herself an executive, a decision maker. It is with this actor that the student is to identify. The classroom becomes the conference room of the executive—like the court of the Caliph—where toadies and flunkies claw, scrape, and clamour to forward their solutions and verdicts to please the person of the executive. The process centers upon—i.e. is obsessed with—the person of the Caliph, er, we mean executive, who in the end gets to render a decision.

Please understand: the case method is not a method like the scientific method is a method. You can find examples of the sorts of cases that Romney must have used in his studies here.

Though we profess not in business but in the humanities, we use case pedagogy in our classroom too. We were trained in the Harvard Method by way of the Richard Ivey School, academics from which offer seminars in how to write teaching cases (we often teach in Canada). The chief limitation of case pedagogy for our purposes is this: teams require strong leaders otherwise they fail to perform. If a group has a strong leader the group may or may not perform, but it will be the strong leader doing most of the performing—the others will support the leader. Hence: it is a method and a pedagogy optimized to produce not citizens but executives (and their toadies) in the most abstract sense of the term.

Back to Barnes:

That’s it. Romney loves the give-and-take. “I have to see conflict,” he says. “The last thing you want is people coming in saying ‘We all agree. Here’s the recommendation.’ I know I don’t want to proceed on that basis.” As governor of Massachusetts, Romney balked at extending Boston’s mass transit system until he’d heard the case against it. Once he had, he decided to approve the extension.

Romney loves the give-and-take? He has to see conflict? Yes. But only within the ambit of his control, within his team, and he constantly preens himself on his “team building.” Please recall, Romney as Governor famously claims to have submitted conservative policies that his legislature merrily and effortlessly overrode. So his love of give-and-take and his need to see conflict apparently do not extend to the political process where he tends to alienate and estrange other actors in the process.

In the political process conflict and dissent are not contained within the safe confines of the team.

Romney used this method of analysis and decision-making for six years with Bain Consulting in Boston, where his task was reviving failing companies. He used it again for 15 years when he headed Bain Capital, which specialized in investing in start-ups and late-stage turnarounds. Romney emphasized it while keeping the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah from collapsing and later in putting together a health insurance plan for Massachusetts that covered all the state’s uninsured and got the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and Senator Ted Kennedy to sign on … etc.

This is what Romney offers?

Not a man but a method?

And not even an interesting method?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.