Car Talk

In another excellent column about Iraq, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman quotes Harvard prez Larry Summers: “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.”

Although neatniks might quibble with the veracity of that observation (I confess, I’ve cleaned out several days of Subway cups and bags in my rentals), Friedman and Summers are definitely onto something. If Iraqis feel a sense of ownership in rebuilding Iraq (or, more accurately, building it from scratch, says Freidman), they’ll be more invested in the outcome than if the U.S. military simply does the job for them.

This is one of the universal truths in organizational change. If people participate in and contribute to remaking the organization themselves, the mission becomes personal. They — rather than outside consultants or new management — help drive (pun intended) the transformation. And their efforts improve the odds of having one clean car.

Although there are obviously no easy answers in Iraq, this isn’t a bad guiding philosophy.

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