Donald Trigg is the chief revenue officer at CodeRyte, the leading supplier of natural language processing in healthcare. He spent a decade in the public sector, including his work on the 2000 Bush for President campaign in Austin, Texas.
November isn't just a time for general elections. It is the window when the private sector commemorates late management thinker Peter Drucker. In 2009, the Harvard Business Review used the centennial of his birth to dedicate its monthly issue to Drucker's classic contributions and influences. The cover asked, "What Would Peter Do?"
For a certain Harvard Business School MBA and former chief executive of Bain Capital, it is a question worth asking in the wake of a 12-point victory by former Speaker Newt Gingrich last Saturday in South Carolina. The Mitt Romney enterprise is in need of a turnaround. And in the voluminous writing of the late Drucker, a path toward full year 2012 plan attainment still can be found.
It starts with Drucker's famous, fundamental frame, "What do we really mean when we say 'our market'"?
While the profile of leaders that have orchestrated turnarounds is diverse, the problem set that befalls established companies is relatively small: poor management, a sea change within the industry, challenging macro market conditions. Similarly, the attributes of the turnaround itself are equally defined, starting with an exit of non-core businesses and renewed emphasis on essential products.
As he contemplates Florida and the March 6th map that follows, former Romney must sharpen his focus. The meaning of "our market" in the days ahead must be: core Republican voters anxious about poor income growth and weak job creation. Everything else is noise.
Second, and by extension, Drucker famously argued that the successful executive focuses on a single task. A decision must be made as to "which efforts are a priority and which are less important." The only question," counseled Drucker, "is which will make the decision—the executive or the pressures."
In the early 1990s, conventional wisdom held that the mainframe was losing out to the PC. But Lou Gerstner's gut and experience at American Express told him that mainframes were needed. His laser focus in his early days at IBM led him to the assessment that the issue was price, not product. His price reduction in turn preserved a pivotal revenue stream and laid the foundation for a shift to services.
In the wake of weekend events, conventional wisdom from the political class is calling for a Romney counterpunch. We already have heard the rhetorical cannons fire on topics ranging from Newt Gingrich's work as a "historian" for Freddie Mac to House Ethics Committee violations to the "grandiosity" that befuddled conservatives throughout the 90s.
But conventional wisdom may prove diverting. A true turnaround, with durability through November, is to be found in a single task: Making the case for Mitt Romney. Does he understand my challenges? Can he fix the economy? Can he beat Obama? The clouds in South Carolina built to a storm when Romney left core GOP voters uncertain of those answers. It is the single priority, the single task for Romney leading up to Florida.
Finally, Drucker argued for "making strength productive." It is the third essential insight from Drucker to enable a turnaround of Romney, Inc.
[Read Boris Epshteyn: State of the Union Shows Why GOP Must Pick Romney Over Gingrich.]
The early 1980s brought an economic sea change to the country. The Reagan tax cuts, deregulation and a stable dollar ushered in a decade where GDP growth was well above 4 percent. As Gingrich is fond of sharing from the rostrum, the macroeconomic history is compelling.
The missing piece of his account is that Bain Capital was a central innovation of the 80s and Romney was one of the entrepreneurial visionaries that brought it to life. The office-supply chain Staples is a perfect encapsulation. As marginal rates dropped below 30 percent and the exclusions in the tax code that advantaged armies of Fortune 500 accountants over the emerging enterprise went away, small business creation exploded. Staples is the place where small businesses shop. The work of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital enabled its rise.