Ebola: Fire head of CDC ?

Writing for CNN, Dr. Ford Vox asserts “Why CDC chief must go”.

This is a great day for Dr. Vox. He gets to have a piece on CNN, his profile is raised, and he becomes a greater public figure than he already is.  He has a great publicity photo. It is not such a great day for Dr. Frieden, whose stellar resume is acknowledged by Dr. Vox.

It is also a great day for me, since in Ebola, Rats, Lice, and History, and Hans Zinsser Part 1, I wrote,

“…but should it come to bite us, the appropriate response is not to juggle appointments and departments at CDC. If, in the future, some medical catastrophe were to befall the U.S., this kind of destructive response could result, and  it would be a supreme sacrifice of talent.”

The ISIS debacle, and the Ebola debacle have institutional analogies,  startling only because they are contemporaneous. In each, it is alleged that individuals should be axed. In each, individuals, whose resumes glow with achievement have, while serving in bureaucracies, been stunningly broadsided by events. The CDC is a huge pre-existing bureaucracy, while the Obama Administration may have created their own institutional puzzle-house.

The American Approach, called  the Six Phases of a Project, has been thoroughly studied and documented in all the best academic annals. We should be proud of this method, one of the pillars of American success, which is further elaborated in the documentary, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”, where Wally decides, “…what to do, and who it do who.”

We could, of course, mount a comprehensive investigation to determine whether Dr. Frieden should actually be fired. This would start with a midnight raid by the F.B.I. to cart away all the computers and filing cabinets of the suspects, convene the appropriate  panels, so that the legislators can ask incisive questions on camera, and find the Newly Qualified Man to lead us out of this mess.

But the Newly Qualified Man does not exist. All we have are the nonparticipants, including Dr. Vox, to whom praise and rewards should be forthcoming.

The Japanese have another system, “Kaizen”, discussed in The Dawning Age of Cooperation: The End of Civilization as We Know It, the Wiki for Kaizen, and many other places around the web. Ironically, one of the contributors to the development of Kaizen beyond the traditional cultural roots was W. Edwards Deming, who “wrote the book” on quality control. Kaizen is practically a half-culture, too complex to be easily encapsulated. But out of it comes the simple proverb,  “Fix the problem not the blame.”

Kaizen has not perfected Japanese society. But by comparison with Kaizen, we should recognize that the almost instinctive urge to find and punish the “guilty” is our own cultural projection onto the problem of mismanagement. There are multifarious approaches, each of which may be as defining of a culture as the traditional standards of government and religion.







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