— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 30, 2014
In a surprise selection, President Obama will choose former P&G CEO Robert McDonald to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency that has come under fire in recent months for the poor job it’s been doing taking care of the needs of the nation’s veterans. By turning to McDonald, the administration is conveying to many that the agency’s problems go beyond an understanding of the military. It suffers from bureaucratic ills and communications issues.
An official who requested anonymity told Bloomberg News that McDonald’s “experience directing a company with more than 120,000 employees and complex operations worldwide makes him well-suited to take up the challenges faced by the department.” A White House report said the department suffers from a “corrosive culture” and engages in straight up duplicity.
Moreover, the report adds, “The problems inherent within an agency with an extensive field structure are exacerbated by poor management and communication structures, distrust between some VA employees and management, a history of retaliation toward employees raising issues, and a lack of accountability across all grade levels.”
Certainly, as head of one of the largest consumer companies in the world, McDonald would have experience with communicating a message to a large audience. And with a staff that huge, he certainly knows a thing or two about organizing a monster-sized workforce.
But there are some who call into question just how effective McDonald will be. He stepped down from his position at P&G in June 2013 after 33 years with the company. Bloomberg says P&G’s stock rose by 51 percent while McDonald was in charge, but his four years as CEO were tumultuous.
“After all, critics say, he failed to fix the woes of the last far-flung bureaucracy he oversaw — Procter & Gamble, where he served as CEO between 2009 and 2013. Besides, on the face of it, selling diapers, detergents, and razors has nothing in common with managing the country’s largest integrated healthcare system,” adds NBC News.
Still, he was in the military and worked his way up through the P&G organization. The key to this job looks to be the ability to balance these varied interests in a way that is both consumer-facing (in this case, the consumers being veterans) and focused on the internal communications needs of the agency. With higher scrutiny on the VA’s needed improvements, being able to discuss the steps being take to turn things around will certainly be a valuable quality.