Bureaucracy Butt-Kickers Beware

He's a genius, but a bit abrasive. Now, how many times have I heard that said of so many chief executives in my career?

A lot.

The latest being an anonymous World Bank manager who described Robert Zoellick that way.

Zoellick is President Bush's choice to head the World Bank. By most accounts, he's smart, shrewd and, as our former U.S. trade representative, effective. But apparently he's also not afraid to step on toes, which is probably why he's effective.

People who step on toes and shake up the status quo generally shake up those who "like" the status quo.

Think, John Bolton at the United Nations.

Institutions that need changing, don't like change and they like even less, the people brought in to make that change.

Which is why you get anonymous comments like those in The Financial Times from an un-named banker, who says, "I think there is skepticism about Zoellick's management skills."

What there's skepticism about is Zoellick's likely efforts to get this vast, unwieldy bureaucracy a good kick in the butt.

Bureaucracies don't like being kicked in the butt. Companies don't much relish it either. Jack Welch was vilified in the media when he started shaking things up at G.E., until people came to realize he made a much better G.E.

It's why CEOs who do a lot of butt-kicking get called on things like style, not substance. What we call hard-driving, might be considered over-the-top brow-beating.

Depends on who's doing the kicking, I supposeā€¦ or whose ass is being kicked.

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