George Bush as programming project leader

by Andy Lester

Related link:

Last night, while watching the
first of the Kerry/Bush debates, I was struck by what a terrible programming project leader President Bush would make.

He kept repeating the importance of staying on the course that was originally set out on, even in the face of things not going as planned: "the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan." He also said that changing course would be demoralizing to the troops: "What kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way, 'wrong war, wrong place, wrong time?'"

I certainly know that that approach doesn't work on programming projects. If there's one thing that seasoned programmers know, it's that projects never go as planned, and course correction is critical. Even worse, the programmers in the trenches know how the project is going, and aren't inspired when things carry on as if nothing is wrong. For a project leader to act as if there are no problems is insulting to those doing the work.

If the war in Iraq was a programming project, Bush would need to be saying, regularly, "I know things aren't going well, I know that you've had a lot of casualties on the team, but I believe we can get through this. Now, here's what we're going to do differently to make sure that we come out of this project alive."

Of course, if the war were a programming project, it'd never have gotten management approval in the first place. What are our requirements? What are our milestones? How are we doing? How do we know when the project is over? What's the timeframe for completion? What's the success metric? Is the iRaq project really the best way to beef up the company's security?

Over a year into the project, having lost over 1,000 employees, Bush The Project Leader would just be pointing at a handful of completed tasks: "We got rid of that old, buggy Hoo-Sane system. The company's better off without it. We're still having problems building the replacement, and a lot of programmers are burning out, because it's a bigger task than I thought, but at least we got rid of the Hoo-Sane system that I've always wanted to replace."

I doubt I'd be a good politician, but I know for sure GWB wouldn't be any good on any projects I've been on.


2004-10-01 09:08:46
Crises Director
George Bush was fulfilling the role of a Crises Director on his first debate day. He was also fulfilling the role of an encourager, and compassionate conservative toward his fellowman. The people in Florida needed this side of George Bush not a programming project leader. He didn't get much rest for his debate, but he gave of himself to the people of Florida which seems to be a very good character gage for a President of the United States. Thumbs up for a caring President!
2004-10-01 10:18:34
Crises Director
2004-10-01 10:32:56
Death March
What silliness. Everyone knows that you must bull ahead, sticking to the original "plan" at all costs, regardless of silly distractions like reality. The more messed up it gets, the more resolute and steadfast we must be.

2004-10-01 10:40:28
Crises Director
serious? wow ...
2004-10-01 10:50:14
Crises Director
If he was there as the Crises Director, then he was micro-managing. FEMA and Florida should be managing the crises, not some VIP who breezes in for a day or two. He was there for political reasons, whether it was for the election or just to show that someone in Washington cares.
2004-10-01 11:50:41
Crises Director
Talk about spin! Well, after last night I imagine it's hard to come up with anything much better than this. :)
2004-10-01 12:28:05
Crises Director
Not really. I call it seeing it like it is. It was better than the trained seal that come across as a professional confused speaker with memorized
remarks that didn't come from the heart just his head which was very interesting in itself.
2004-10-01 12:36:35
Crises Director
He was there as President of the United States politically or not. Oops! that was not politically correct on his part...right...let them fiend for themselves...a president shouldnt' show himself caring...Oops! that's not politically correct to boost morale for people that are hurting or in need...let buearacy handle not involve the President..Oops! I would count it very special to know a President just came by for political reasons or maybe...just maybe he is for real. Oops!
2004-10-01 13:00:56
Crises Director
Just a name...whatever...Project Manager...Crises Manager...the proof is in the pudding. One pudding already proved out to be a good finshed product..the other one is not sure of the ingredients (waffling). You just can't cover up a record by circumventing around it. It is better to be safe than sorry. Debates don't get it. Honesty gets it.
2004-10-01 13:17:06
Crisis Director
I don't know about you, but I've had a few Crisis Managers in the past and I hated them. All they do is react (poorly) to a crisis. That's no way to run a project or a country.
2004-10-01 13:27:48
Death March
Bull...Reality check...War is devastating and destructive for everyone in it. Reality check...Let the terroists come here and kill some more of our loved ones without any conscience...real reality then will hit us right where it hurts! There are many obstacles to move in a war. Distractions? If you call evil crazy radical terrorists distractions then that puts a whole new meaning on reality. War is messed up, and usually gets more messed up before victory comes. War is not fought on a asap basis, but with a resolve and steadfastness to destroy the enemy at costs that none of us want to accept. The alternative is worse than the costs. Reality is sometimes worse at it's best!
2004-10-01 14:05:34
It's not as if George Jnr did not know the envitable outcome.

Why We Didn't Remove Saddam


The end of effective Iraqi resistance came with a rapidity which surprised us all, and we were perhaps psychologically unprepared for the sudden transition from fighting to peacemaking. True to the guidelines we had established, when we had achieved our strategic objectives (ejecting Iraqi forces from Kuwait and eroding Saddam's threat to the region) we stopped the fighting. But the necessary limitations placed on our objectives, the fog of war, and the lack of "battleship Missouri" surrender unfortunately left unresolved problems, and new ones arose.

We were disappointed that Saddam's defeat did not break his hold on power, as many of our Arab allies had predicted and we had come to expect. President Bush repeatedly declared that the fate of Saddam Hussein was up to the Iraqi people. Occasionally, he indicated that removal of Saddam would be welcome, but for very practical reasons there was never a promise to aid an uprising. While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

We discussed at length forcing Saddam himself to accept the terms of Iraqi defeat at Safwan--just north of the Kuwait-Iraq border--and thus the responsibility and political consequences for the humiliation of such a devastating defeat. In the end, we asked ourselves what we would do if he refused. We concluded that we would be left with two options: continue the conflict until he backed down, or retreat from our demands. The latter would have sent a disastrous signal. The former would have split our Arab colleagues from the coalition and, de facto, forced us to change our objectives. Given those unpalatable choices, we allowed Saddam to avoid personal surrender and permitted him to send one of his generals. Perhaps we could have devised a system of selected punishment, such as air strikes on different military units, which would have proved a viable third option, but we had fulfilled our well-defined mission; Safwan was waiting.

As the conflict wound down, we felt a sense of urgency on the part of the coalition Arabs to get it over with and return to normal. This meant quickly withdrawing U.S. forces to an absolute minimum. Earlier there had been some concern in Arab ranks that once they allowed U.S. forces into the Middle East, we would be there to stay. Saddam's propaganda machine fanned these worries. Our prompt withdrawal helped cement our position with our Arab allies, who now trusted us far more than they ever had. We had come to their assistance in their time of need, asked nothing for ourselves, and left again when the job was done. Despite some criticism of our conduct of the war, the Israelis too had their faith in us solidified. We had shown our ability--and willingness--to intervene in the Middle East in a decisive way when our interests were challenged. We had also crippled the military capability of one of their most bitter enemies in the region. Our new credibility (coupled with Yasser Arafat's need to redeem his image after backing the wrong side in the war) had a quick and substantial payoff in the form of a Middle East peace conference in Madrid.

The Gulf War had far greater significance to the emerging post-cold war world than simply reversing Iraqi aggression and restoring Kuwait. Its magnitude and significance impelled us from the outset to extend our strategic vision beyond the crisis to the kind of precedent we should lay down for the future. From an American foreign-policymaking perspective, we sought to respond in a manner which would win broad domestic support and which could be applied universally to other crises. In international terms, we tried to establish a model for the use of force. First and foremost was the principle that aggression cannot pay. If we dealt properly with Iraq, that should go a long way toward dissuading future would-be aggressors. We also believed that the U.S. should not go it alone, that a multilateral approach was better. This was, in part, a practical matter. Mounting an effective military counter to Iraq's invasion required the backing and bases of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

2004-10-01 18:42:25
Crises Director
let them fiend for themselves

In Bush's case, exactly.

2004-10-01 21:53:37
Crisis Director
He is not a crises director. He is our President!
Remember 9-11 and how he we seemed to appreciate his stength, resolve, and his action to put the terroist on notice and meant it!
2004-10-01 22:40:43
Death March
evil crazy radical terrorists

I think you mixed up Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Worryingly, George Bush has also continually made this mistake.

: )

2004-10-01 23:33:09
Crisis Director
Hey Sanford, are you a product of the "Education President's" (Bush Sr.) administration? Or maybe English is not your first language?

I appreciate nothing this President has done. He is a disgrace to the office. Shall we count the ways? Look at all the things that have disappeared since he took office:

- over a million jobs
- civil liberties
- federal budget surplus, replaced by the biggest debt of all time
- hundreds of billions of dollars going to Iraq for no good reason, except to enrich Halliburton, while the folks back home get stiffed yet again.

As the original Weblog pointed out, staying a disastrous course is not indicative of strength and resolve. It's indicative of stupidity.

2004-10-02 05:46:15
Crises Director
Bush was better than Kerry because Bush didn't use his head? Interesting, indeed.
2004-10-02 06:14:18
Death March
They are the one's mixed up. Either one of them would do us in. They both have ordered Americans killed. The world is a better place without Hussein in power & will be much better without Bin Laden in power. Bush should have used more force!
2004-10-02 09:56:23
"He kept repeating the importance of staying on the course that was originally set out on, even in the face of things not going as planned"

That's entirely misleading, Andy. You go on to write:

"If there's one thing that seasoned programmers know, it's that projects never go as planned, and course correction is critical."

That's what has been done. We've made dozens of course corrections, but the main goal is what has not been changed.

"Even worse, the programmers in the trenches know how the project is going, and aren't inspired when things carry on as if nothing is wrong. For a project leader to act as if there are no problems is insulting to those doing the work."

Just a month ago, Bush talked about how the insurgency is stronger than he thought it would be. We've had to modify our plans for dealing with the insurgency (which just went into action in the last week).

You're conflating "staying the course" with "not making course corrections." Bush is talking about the big picture, keep heading toward the goal.

You apparently think Bush is talking about the smaller goals along the way. He isn't. You apparently think we are not changing the course along the way to adjust to what happens. We are.

But yes, Bush is not a project manager. He's the CEO. He's the one who sets the larger goals and emphasizes the positives, and gives the project managers the room to do what they have to do to get the job done. You might have noticed over the years that Bush never publically blames the people under him. He doesn't micromanage and isn't hypercritical. He supports them and what they are doing. That's what a good CEO does.

As to Kerry ... he's the junior executive who agrees with the CEO's decisions at one point (the invasion was the "right decision") and then slams the same decisions at a later point (it's the "wrong war"), and then slams the company's partners (our coalition partners are the "coalition of the bribed" and the Iraqi leader is a "puppet"), and expects the company and its partners to want to work for and with him if he should become the new CEO.

2004-10-02 11:06:42
Crisis Director
Yes, I do remember, actually, and I think Bush critics tend to forget just how unified the country was in the months right after that tragedy. In fact, the world was unified: "We are all Americans now" is a famous line about the attacks from none other than Jacques Chirac.

The problem that Bush supporters don't seem to understand is that the reason we're at such a different point now is entirely about Bush's politicization of the war and rebuilding effort. He treated his amazing approval rating, the unprecedented support from Democrats and other world leaders, as a way to ram through highly partisan programs with questioning from his political opponents and as a way to veer into a highly radical foreign policy engineered by the Project for the New American Century thinktank. As Tom Friedman--originally a Bush supporter--wrote, "There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that’s getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so. It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That’s why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. Because I tried to think about something as deadly serious as Iraq and the post-9/11 world in a nonpartisan fashion, I assumed the Bush officials were doing the same. I was wrong."

And that's why those of us who don't support Bush don't support him.

Sure, I agree that strength and resolve are great character traits. Nobody argues with that. But that's not enough. Kerry nailed it when he said, "You can be certain and be wrong." This tongue-in-cheek weblog entry gets it absolutely right. "Staying the course" is only a virtue when the course is leading you in the correct direction.

2004-10-02 14:42:52
Re: Uh
> > He kept repeating the importance of staying on
> > the course that was originally set out on, even
> > in the face of things not going as planned"
> That's entirely misleading, Andy.

Actually, it's not. You're welcome to debate what he intended to say, but I think it's pretty clear: It was simply a clever tactic.

When Kerry mentioned modifying his opinion based on new information, Bush used this as an opportunity to promote the idea that Kerry's stance is inconsistent. If I were Bush's debate coach, this is one of the things I would have encouraged him to do at every opportunity.

I think it makes little sense to argue that this was a mistake, or that it wasn't what Bush meant. It's exactly what he meant, and he gained much more by fostering this idea than he lost by the few people who, like Andy, saw the obvious flaws in this approach.

If you're a supporter of Bush, you should actually encourage this line of thinking. :-)

2004-10-04 21:34:49
Sorry Andy,

I think you are off base here. Your interpretation of GB's "staying the course" comments are akin to the programmer that writes perfect code; no editing; no bugs; no changes. The real meaning is more like setting out to write a SCSI device driver and, after learning much along the way, getting a working SCSI device driver in the end.

Further I'd add that Kerry reminds me much more of the bad project managers I've dealt with. Changing the deliverables, specs, schedules arbitrarily depending upon the way the wind is blowing.

2004-10-04 22:32:05
Crisis Director
When a man's words are in conflict with his voting record in Congess, you are getting a double minded man. He may speak eloquently, and have an intoxicating way with words, but his votes in Congress speaks volumes. I may not speak English eloquently, and may not be able to write as fluently as others, but it is my opinion that a man should be proud of his voting record, and stand on his convictions without waivering. Being a better debater does not emphatically mean you're the man for the job. Bush is a tried and tested President who has had to make some very hard decisions. As expected, we may not always agree with his policy, but he is a straight shooter who means what he says. In knowing this about Bush, it gives me some comfort, and inner confidence that though the man is not perfect, he has shown himself qualified to continue the job. When he speaks to our enemies, they know he means it. The enemy is looking for a little crack they can slip through. Eloquent speach will not impress the enemy at all. They will shake your hand and smile as you make a million dollar deal with them to cease fighting. They will put the money in their pockets to buy more weapons. They will smile as they cut your head off. We can run but not hide. They know where we live, and they have decided we are all Satan, and are to die. We can show them weakness or a strong resolve to stay away from America or die. Sadam, Bin Laden, and all terroists mean business, so should we. The enemy is at the gate. Do we fight them, negoitate with unrelenting finatics, pull out of Iraq, beg other countries to help us, hope they want kill anymore of us, try to be their friend, circumvent around all the facts, beg them not to cut anymore heads off, beg them not to kill anymore innocent children, threaten them with more sanctions, pay France, Germany, and China enough money to fix it, ask the U.N. to fix it, let Congess legislate it, ask the big wigs to fix it, or hope it all goes away. I simply just believe this war is more important than jobs, civil liberties, surpluses, debates, arguments, diverse opinions, political preferances, or dissenters, or anything else. None of this will matter if the enemy tears down our gate.
2004-10-04 22:54:56
Crises Director
I seem to remember his head was attached to the rest of his body, but Kerry's mystical way with words might have circumvented it around to his own lips talking waffling nonsense. So, Bush was left talking from his heart.
2004-10-04 23:02:09
Crises Director
If it happened to you, would you say that? It is easy to say if you are the one not in that crises.
2004-10-04 23:15:22
Crisis Director
It is also true Kerry can be certain and be wrong. How can you be sure the president is leading us in the wrong direction. His plan is still in progress, so how can you be so sure that it will not lead to victory. True, if the terroists were not in the way, it would be over now. But they are in the way over there and not over here. Does Kerry think they are going to do any different for him? He will not be able o sweet talk them. They will agree with him, smile with him, and continue to kill American's. There are many two-faced people in this fight. We had better stay the course or we will have to fight on our own land.