Effectiveness Within Congress


by Jesse W. Brogan

Management Engineer


After seeing her first football game, eleven year old Shirley asked her Dad what all those powerful young men were trying to do.  On being told that they were trying to get the ball to the far end of the field, she thought about it for several seconds before stepping out onto the field.  She picked up a loose ball; and walked it to the far end without challenge.  On returning, she noted,” It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.”


There are few less efficient ways to accomplish anything

Than arranging the effort as a competition.


Management engineering is the application of basic efficiency engineering to the work of management, the gaining of performance through the efforts of others.  It yields understandings and techniques for application by managers.  It yields technical support for managers in applying their art to the structure and processes of operating organizations.

In another aspect, it puts working managers into more-effective charge of the organizations over which they exercise authority.


Members of Congress as Managers

The Legislative mandate in our Constitution falls within the functional definition of management.  Our Congressional representatives are trying to accomplish things through direction of our national resources.

Management engineering, the application of professional problem-solving logic and approach to management, generates a new set of tools for use by members of Congress.  These are viewpoints, techniques and principles that are useful in assuring results through the efforts of members. 

In specific, management engineering opens one new area of managerial effectiveness for application.  This emerging technical specialty is appropriate to corporate bodies which fulfill senior-management functions.  This is in the area of family-like relations, which become important to accomplishment.

The higher that we rise in administrative structures, the more important internal family relations become in determining activities and accomplishments.  Congress, the highest authority within the Legislative aspect of Federal government, has family as a major determinant for personal performance, and yet the consistent and purposeful application of family management has been largely undeveloped.


Foundations for Family Relations in Business

Current activity centers on congressional “horse trading,” on garnering support for your vote on certain issues as a way to purchase support on another matter.  While such trading is a necessary skill, it is a different subject.  I am addressing the value of the horse you have to trade; management engineering can be applied to maximize the trading power of your vote.

Opening the door to this new area for personal effectiveness is not difficult, but does involve a leap in vision.  It requires seeing the personal interaction between members of Congress as a source of potential; as a new area where the work of the member can become intentionally directed to a different level of effectiveness.

As a place to start, our ancient foundation for business is family; it is family farms, fishing families and family trades.  The source of family management is authority to direct business resources.  Family leaders exercise authority over their business resources by right of ownership.  When workers were hired, they answered to the family leader, and to other family members.  The hired help was never given any real authority over family members.

What makes a family?  The question addresses a preexisting relationship between people who share a portion of their lives.  They have similar benefits from family operations, they have concern for one another, and will take care to act for each other’s benefit, both as individuals and as part of the family.  There is a personal bond between members of a family that makes their behavior predictable and generally beneficial in their dealings with other family members.

For engineering purposes, it is effective to state that efficiency has no meaning when applied to family leadership.  The family earns whatever is earned, and the family expends whatever is expended.  The working efficiency of the family leader may be a personal concern, but not an issue to anyone but family leaders.  In the same sense, there is little efficiency application to the work performed by other family members.  They are not hired workers, but beneficiaries of ownership.  The family business exists solely for the benefit of the family.  Family members work to the general satisfaction of the family leader.

Another area of family application is encountered in modern business corporations.  A hired executive manager demonstrates a very different business-management concept from that of an owner-operator.  Corporate owners are often faceless, and unknown to those who run the business.  A corporate leader fills the void that is left when there is no family manager in charge.  He or she fills the vacuum and assumes the ownership role without having real ownership. 

Shifting to this alternative form of leadership does not change basic internal business relationships; efficiency measurement continues to be applied to subordinates, but not to the corporate leader, or to the work of leadership.  The result is a two-tier organization containing both effective management-family and effective management-workers.  The hired leader exercises the privilege of ownership. 

On the continued growth of these corporate businesses, we find establishment of a different kind of family, an executive family.  This group fills the general purpose that had been served by the working members of a business owner-operator’s nuclear family.  Members of this executive family jointly assume the privileges of ownership.

Management-workers work for a salary.  Family leadership directs the efforts of management workers as a means of gaining performance.  In general, efficiency and effectiveness measures are applied only to corporate managers who work for a wage, not to those who act as owners.


The Nature of the Executive Family

The executive family exists based on family-like relationships.  These relationships are built upon trust more than upon performance.  It involves membership, with personal recognition of the membership of individuals, and a sense of personal privilege within the executive family.

The most obvious witness to the division between family and non-family is the “glass wall.”  It is a barrier to upward mobility in management.  It is not based on performance, and there are always complaints that the “best managers” are blocked from moving into the ranks of executives. 

Attempts to eliminate this barrier have proven wholly ineffective.  Even directing the placement of desired individuals above the barrier did not work.  Either they became executives in fact, and the barrier formed beneath them; or they were rejected, and continued without being treated as true executives.

Management engineering provides a better vision for seeing the barrier; it is the difference between family and non-family.  It is a barrier in trust and acceptance, not in ability.  Crossing this barrier is not so much a matter of advancement as of adoption.  It comes about through acceptance of the new person as a member of the family, with acceptance of member privileges.

There are several key understandings that drive such family groups.  Members of the executive family (excepting the CEO in representative capacity) are secure; family members are never fired unless it is for gross immorality, outright embezzlement, or criminal activity that goes to prosecution.  Merely being ineffective or wasteful is not sufficient reason to challenge a family member.  Family works by being family, by maintaining the personal relationships upon which it is founded. 

Executive family members have, as in the family-owned business, access to business resources.  They can direct these as seems personally appropriate, subject only to the recognition of the same privilege in other family members.  Control over business resources is part of the privilege of family membership.

The other type of privilege is personal.  A member can always approach another member with an expectation of being received with respect.  Members can put many demands on the time and attention of other members; and only past abuses of that privilege will excuse any relaxing of this privilege.

Management engineering looks upon executive-family privilege as a manageable aspect of senior management, and a potential source of great personal effectiveness.


The Congressional Family

The application of this understanding to Congress is obvious.  It is a corporate body that exists for the purpose of directing Federal resources to performance requirements.  There is great potential advantage from designed use of the family-like relationships among its members.

I am not addressing what Congress performs through others, so much as what individual members are able to accomplish within the executive family that is Congress.

Congressional membership implies trust among members, based on a reasonable expectation for behavior and decision process.  The same is founded on commonality of representative basis.  Congressional members can generally trust each other to behave in a highly predictable way.  That is how a family functions.

Also, we have the equivalent of a glass wall.  There is no way to progress from being a hireling into being a member of Congress, it involves an effective adoption that arises from acceptance of the new member as being elected into a representative capacity and assuming the privileges associated with this office.

Effectiveness within the Congressional family will be determined by the same forces as effectiveness within any other corporate executive family.  Congress is just larger and more complex than other such families, and has a formally established internal authority structure. 

As with all family matters, the existing authority structure is general guidance for those who effectively run the family.  Formal leadership can have impact on the meaning of operating rules, or can limit their application as necessary to assure family purposes.


Foundational Engineering Concepts

The engineering of privilege is not a matter of skilled horse trading.  That is a well established area for application that is fully developed and entered into the general art form of legislative management.  I am addressing a new knowledge area.

Formal structure does not control effectiveness.  As a management engineer, I am most interested in concentrating family privilege.  This privilege is the currency of family effectiveness, and the garnering and maintenance of privilege is a separate purpose from organizational performance.

In this sense, family privilege is the ability to impact upon the behavior of other members, and to receive recognition from them as to personal effectiveness.  The purpose of this analysis and approach is to maximize this sense of privilege.

Management engineering becomes a success through providing technical support to a working manager, so that he or she is more in charge of organizational performance.  The leadership challenge is in the perception of other members of Congress.  This challenge is met by addressing how such perception is managed, with development of a general set of tools for maximizing the desired result. 

The desired result of application will be “leadership.”  The goal for application will be general recognition and acceptance of the member who has the benefit of engineered tools.

To apply engineering, we need a metric, something that will be useful in tracking the development of family privilege.  For this purpose, an appropriate metric is “stock,” a general measure of acceptance as family leader, and accordingly as the one most able to exercise family privilege on behalf of the corporate purpose.

This is not an absolute metric.  There is no set value for family stock.  The technique to use is engineered investments.  These are founded on taking actions that increase stock; and avoiding or minimizing actions that expend stock. 

With this, I am able to address a set of operating rules for a member who desires to gather family stock and increase personal influence with other members. 

I specifically note that this is stock in membership, not in overall effect.  The generation of family leadership stock is just one of the values that should be sought.  It addresses ability to get people to perform specific acts, or to present preferred viewpoints, but does not directly address the operating effectiveness of Congress.  More effective leadership will see to that purpose, but as a result instead of as a directed goal.


Rule 1:  Lead wherever you are able. 

Assume leadership easily and “rely” upon other members whenever the same will not lead to disaster.  It is almost always better to accept damage from mediocre efforts than to fail to honor the efforts of other family members.  Fierce loyalty to family is a necessity for effective family leadership, even if the family member is behaving improperly or is factually wrong.  Relying upon (and always supporting) the effectiveness of others is part of what defines family leaders.  Assuming leadership should be accepted as a potential investment. 

Leadership should be refused only where it violates other family member privileges.  If there is a clearly senior family member present, leadership should be accepted only for a specific purpose and limited time.  This allows this senior to support or cooperate with your efforts, increasing your stock.

In the negative, if a member so exercises leadership authority that they refuse or ignore the family privileges of other family members, the result is the kiss of death for future family relations.  When it comes to family stock, being right, or even being effective, is often less important than being family.

NOTE:  formal leadership will usually be offered based on family stock.  Leadership can always be assumed by those who have great family stock, even where they may not be formally recognized as group leaders.


Rule 2:  Cooperate wherever you are not actively opposed. 

The value of cooperation is great, and its cost is low.  The more cooperation you generate (or even encourage), the greater your stock within the family.  Cooperation is like well water drawn from an underground river, and should be treated the same; spread it lavishly.

If a member seeks cooperation, they should be honored for seeking it.  Their action recognizes you as family, and honors your effectiveness.  Make sure that others are aware that you receive the request; the request for cooperation can only increase stock as it is recognized by others.

Withholding cooperation is usually unnecessary.  If an alternative direction is desired, it is most effective to cooperate “as far as you are able,” but with the understanding that you will be “actively supporting” something else. 


Rule 3:  Support freely. 

Like cooperation, support is of high value and low cost.  If you cannot fully support, find a way to give limited support.  If you cannot give limited support, give your support to someone else.  Withholding support adds nothing but personal opinion.  It is always better for all concerned if you espouse what you can or do support, rather than what you cannot.  It makes you more predictable, and accordingly increases your stock as a family member.

It is often more effective to be the one who supports than the one who originates.  New ideas are usually received as a cost rather than a benefit, especially by those who are using or relying upon older ideas that are challenged by the change. 

The least costly way to introduce originality is probably to have a smaller in-family group jointly take credit for the novelty, or find someone not in the family to be seen as the originator.  You are then able to assume a supportive role, and not be seen by other members as the one who challenges or upsets the privileges of other members.


Rule 4:  Compete within the family only as a last resort. 

As with the first example, competition is horribly expensive, and accomplishes little except making other members less effective.  Arranging or encouraging competition spends your stock.

I would note that competitive/combative attitude and approach is the greatest waste of stock in modern management.  Intelligent handling of potentially competitive or combative situations can also be the greatest source of stock.  In Congress, where members had to develop competitive skills to enter the family, this is a constant source of potential benefit.

If other members would compete with you, support them in their efforts.  Help them to be effective even in opposing you.  This is one of the few ways that a member can take stock from others and garner it for themselves.  Any contrary (non-family) attitudes and behaviors exhibited by others should be approached as major investment opportunities.


Rule 5:  Honor all family demands. 

This addresses gatherings, whether social or business, that are called by other family members who hold substantial stock.  Your presence adds both to your stock and to theirs.

If you are unable to be there, the contact that communicates this must be personal and approached as recognizing your necessary failure of an accepted family duty.  Properly handled, the forced absence can actually increase your stock by enlisting the support of the one who you honor by the way you deliver your regrets.


Rule 6:  All family matters are public. 

Your stock is impacted only where actions are noted by others; and only those who see your actions (directly or through others) will be affected.  If a matter is private between a few, it cannot increase your stock until it becomes public within the membership.

In the negative, if you must take actions that are potentially damaging to your stock, they are to be carefully performed in such a way that they do not become public with the membership.  This is part of the logic used in the desired handling of novelty addressed in Rule 3 above.

Communication is an area for the exercise of the artistry of management.  Internal family communication should be a constant concern and focus of effort.  Family stock is a matter of perception; and perception can be managed through intentional communication.

The channels of communication differ for different purposes.  One good lesson is the stock garnered by good publicists such as Ralph Nader or Joe McCarthy.  They used a more public channel to address their efforts, and got internal family press through this means.  McCarthy was famous for getting effect, even though he was otherwise considered as a mediocre to poor representative member.




Rule 7:  Family is not Politics. 

Your family stock is based on congressional membership with its representational basis.  It is good across all political lines.  Your family stock is almost as potent in the other house of Congress as it is in your own. 

The only effective limit is in ability to communicate your garnering of stock to those you wish to impact.  It is good even in addressing those who are not members of the congressional family, as your influence within Congress will have wide effects throughout government. 

As noted above, your stock is only as good as your ability to be seen as having stock.  Publicizing your actions within the larger family is necessary for garnering stock.  There is an important communication aspect to being effective in maximizing family stock.


Rule 8:  Play the performance card often and to good effect.

One of the few consistent drivers for congressional action is performance.  This can be used to draw the efforts of family members to a “cooperative” and “supportive” focus.  It can be used to unite the efforts of different political leanings.  It can be used to unite the efforts of different congressional bodies.  It is the glue that opens the door to communications with members with whom there is little regular interaction.

One generally effective attitude is insistence that all members (whether born out in fact or not) are working to the same “performance purpose.”  Other members are most unlikely to disagree or challenge this assertion, but can be called upon to work to make it true.  Presenting this attitude brings it to the front, and garners stock for the one who exhibits that “cooperative” attitude that promotes leadership.

As a note to this rule, performance focus is the broadest bridge between family effectiveness and the effectiveness of the organization.  It is a way to use family effectiveness to generate organizational effectiveness; and it is a way to use organizational effectiveness to garner leadership stock.


Engineer’s Summation

As a final note, none of this is really new.  These management tools can be seen in the difference between those who now have substantial leadership stock and those who do not.  What engineering does is to codify understandings, and to present them in the form of principles and rules that make them easier to use, and more effective through intentional coordination in their use. 

Management engineering provides technical support to those who have things to accomplish through organizations.  There can be substantial advantage through intentionally investing in efforts to gather family leadership stock.  The use of engineered understandings such as “stock” to measure, analyze and invest in leadership-generating efforts can secure results that are difficult to obtain without such a practical organization of our working knowledge.