CIA: Thinking Outside The Fraternity

02/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My husband Rick and I were talking about the nomination of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, and Rick's immediate comment was "Of course he's a right choice -- you appoint from inside when you want continuity, and from outside when you need change."

We've been hearing a lot about change lately -- but the question here was about changing an organization like the CIA, with its special functions and rules and strong internal cohesiveness.

Rick, who tries hard but often can't totally leave his background as a college dean behind him, talked a bit more about how to go about changing behaviors and the culture in an organization.

"If you want to have a chanc-e of getting the changes that are needed," he said, "you need four things." First is leadership - someone clear about what needs to change. Someone whose behavior matches the kind of changes that are needed, and who has enough charisma to at least get heard by others.

Second is a process -- changes will last only when the people at all levels in the organization are included in the process.

Third is a sensitivity to the tone of the organization, taking account of and working with, rather than ignoring or wishing away, the existing corporate culture.

And fourth, in getting buy-in from the superstructure -- and in this case, managing one's boss isn't a major problem, as the new President has been very clear on wanting some major differences from the past eight years in the CIA.

When I asked about the initial flap about Panetta that came from Senator Diane Feinstein, Rick said, "Hey, back to the campus model again -- Obama's the new young Dean, and he doesn't want to underestimate the power and importance -- or the egos -- of the senior faculty."

I've written about the need for coordination among the various intelligence gathering agencies ... I'm hoping that that kind of information sharing will be part of the Panetta changes.