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Mayor Daley Rule

Wrigley field 

A long time ago in my Foreign Service career I discovered the Mayor Daley rule.   The Mayor Daley rule is named after the major of Chicago (take your pick which one) and it is simply a test of reasonableness.  It works like this.  When planning to provide/inflict a program or policy on our foreign friends and colleagues, I ask myself how I would feel if a foreigner proposed doing a similar type of program in the U.S.   To make it more concrete, I think of it how it would play in Milwaukee or Chicago. 

If I conclude that it would be inappropriate applied to us/me/Milwaukee/Chicago, I have to ask myself why I think it is appropriate for them.   Sometimes after further consideration I understand that it IS appropriate, but usually I have to modify the program in light of the paradigm shifting thought experiment. 

It is also important to be aware of CHANGING circumstances.  I remember when working in Poland many of the programs that worked well right after the fall of communism were no longer useful a few years later.  At some point, our tutelage is no longer required.  That doesn’t mean that the job is done; it only means that we cannot take it any further.   Our goal as a PRT is exactly this – helping the Iraqis get beyond needing our help. 

I remember when we taught Mariza how to ride a bike.  I always held onto the seat and she couldn’t balance alone.  Then I let go and before she realized she was balancing by herself; she was riding.  Of course, she kept on going and ran right into a brick wall on the side of the road.  I can still picture it on the little road above our house in Oslo.  I raced over to make sure she was okay.   She was happy to have been able to ride the bike and didn’t seem to consider the fall very important.

The reason I am thinking about this has to do with some of our governance programs.  A couple of our contract trainers were weathered in at Al Asad on their way to Rutbah.  They wanted to turn around and go back.  This would have been a bad thing, since we promised a program to Rutbah and we need to keep our word.  I saw that communication in person would be better so I drove up to the landing zone with one of our Marines to encourage them to press on.  They ended up taking our advice.  In the process of talking to them I also got a chance to find out more about their program.  The program seemed very good, but I wonder if it passed the Mayor Daley test.  

I am concerned that the program was too generic.  Every place is different and programs must be adjusted to local needs.  I am afraid what we are doing might be like taking the Chicago program to San Francisco w/o modification.  Comments about Cubs & Bears probably would not mean the same things in both places.  I don’t directly manage these particular programs or people & I am not aware of any trouble, but I am making it my business to figure out how well they are working in light of the Mayor Daley rule.

The Cubs are the baseball players, right?


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