John Koskinen is the head of the Presidential Commission on the Year 2000 Conversion. He is referred to as the y2k czar. But he's not really a czar. Actually, he's more like Rasputin. He is a fix-it man.
In his testimony to the House Banking Committee last March, he described his religion of managerial fix-it. I think this religion is widespread. It undergirds most MBA programs. It is found in board rooms everywhere. It is part of the can-do religion of good, old-fashioned American ingenuity.
It has about 19 months to go.
This religion rests on a presupposition: when senior managers ask the right questions, this is tantamount to solving the problem. Rev. Koskinen is a faithful defender of this deeply religious faith: ". . . it is my experience as a crisis manager in both the public and private sectors that once you get the senior people in an organization asking the right questions -- Do we have a problem? What is the nature of that problem? What should we be doing to fix it? -- the work gets done."
Is y2k a "challenge"? Let senior managers ask the right questions. Are a trillion lines of code suspect? Let management ask the right questions. Are 1% of 25 billion embedded chips going to go kaput on Jan. 1, 2000? Let managers ask better questions. "I have come that ye might have questions, and that ye might have them more abundantly."
* * * * * * * * *
March 24, 1998
Good afternoon. I am pleased to be before the committee to discuss the year 2000 problem and my new role as Chair of the Presidentís Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. . . .
No problem facing us is more pressing, especially since, unlike other Washington problems, neither the President nor Congress can push the deadline back. We have 647 days left until January 1, 2000, and the question is how can we work together to ensure that the Federal Government, State and local governments, those in the private sector, and leaders in other countries are doing all that they can to minimize disruption to systems on January 1, 2000. . . .
We need to adopt a global perspective, and I think the Councilís real contribution will be made by coordinating work by the agencies with those outside the Federal government, whether they be Tribal, State and local governments, private sector organizations, or institutions operating around the world. . . .
I am adopting this approach in part because it is my experience as a crisis manager in both the public and private sectors that once you get the senior people in an organization asking the right questions -- Do we have a problem? What is the nature of that problem? What should we be doing to fix it? -- the work gets done. I believe that most senior executives in the Federal agencies are asking these questions, and the Councilís job is to ensure that leaders outside the Government are asking them as well.
In short, the Presidentís Council on the Year 2000 Conversion needs to be a catalyst, to ensure that individuals in the public and private sectors are aware of the problem and doing all they can to fix it. The Council also should be a facilitator, to promote the fruitful exchange of ideas and information on best practices and the resolution of common problems. Finally, the Council should be a coordinator, to ensure that resources are being used effectively across organizational boundaries. . . .
Some have described economic doomsday scenarios that could take place when we reach the year 2000. To ensure that does not happen, the Council will work to raise awareness and offer support to private sector firms. Small and medium-sized businesses are of special concern, because many of them do not have adequate institutional resources to devote to fixing the problem. We are also reaching out to them.