Every experienced decision maker knows the frustration of having to deal with the aftermath of the right decision that was made the wrong way.
Nicola Roxon, the former Federal Attorney-General and Health Minister gave a speech this week in which she told of the previous government dealing with the same consequences. It was a rare insight into the fundamentals of good decision making in the leadership of the country.
She explained why the Labor Party chose to remove Kevin Rudd as the Prime Minister.
'I think we had all the right reasons to act,' she said, 'but I think we were clumsy and short sighted in the way we did it.'
'Even though the reasons were there to justify our action, I don’t think we handled it properly at the time, and Labor has paid a very high price for this mishandling ever since.'
In other words, Labor's process leading up to and following the removal of Kevin Rudd revealed, tested and shaped its Widget in the eyes of the electorate. The re-defining of its Widget that this caused, and the damage to Labor's integrity is hard to overcome.
'If Kevin had been an employee,' Ms Roxon a former industrial lawyer said, 'he would have won his unfair dismissal case. Not because there wasn’t cause to dismiss him, but because we didn’t explain the reasons properly to him, let alone to the voting public.'
'I used to see a lot of these cases - where there was good cause to dismiss someone but the employer hadn’t given notice of the problem, or used a different excuse because it was too embarrassing to simply tell a colleague they weren’t up to the job, or that everyone found them unbearable.'
She spoke about how attempts to save people from the consequences of their actions and the decisions that they draw upon themselves can actually be crueller in the long run.
'After the most brutal and speedy sacking, we got overcome with politeness and thought it would save Kevin pain to say as little as possible and move on quickly. What the rest of the world calls a polite white lie, became political poison.
'So although at the time it seemed unimaginable to contemplate being so publically rude to your own PM, with the benefit of hindsight, some of us should’ve spoken out - if not before, at least immediately after.
'Instead, we made a brutal decision and then shied from the brutal explanation that was needed.
'We left everyone looking for other answers and by doing this we did a great disservice to both Kevin and Julia. On its own it would’ve cast a long shadow over the next three years in government, and with active fanning by Kevin and his supporters, it proved impossible to recover from.'
It's either sobering or reassuring for the average boss to know that the senior law and justice officer in the country and an expert in employment law was collateral damage from her government's poor workplace performance management and decision making.
This is a striking example of how even the most experienced, intelligent and powerful decision makers can be so fixated on the need to make the right decision, to be 'decisive', that they neglect to make the decision in the right way.
They got what they wanted - the removal of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister - yet at the cost of their Widget. As Ms Roxon said in response to the argument that political expediency justified the decision:
'We know bums on seats in Parliament do matter - but they aren’t all that matters. If the damage to our sense of purpose, to our reputation for delivering good policy and for caring for the community is severe, this reputational loss, and lack of purpose, can take longer to recover from than it takes to win back seats here and there.
'And it is harder to win the seats back if your people don’t think you stand for anything.'