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Abstract: In 1977 President Carter, pursuing his policy of appointing liberal public interest advocates to subcabinet posts, named Mike Pertschuk as chairman of the FTC. Pertschuk assumed command of a recently revitalized, aggressive bureaucracy. This case examines the first year of Pertschuk's chairmanship. It provides a brief history of the FTC, surveys Pertschuk's early management initiatives, and chronicles the ensuing battles with Congress and industry, particularly over the issue of Kidvid, Pertschuk's effort to ban advertising on children's television. The sequel briefly reviews actions by Congress to limit the activities of the FTC through its authorizing legislation.
Learning Objective: The case can be used generally to illustrate the notion of a "strategic audit"--an assessment of an agency's goals, external support, and internal capacities--and to explore the need for agency goals to reflect internal and external resources. More specific lessons that emerge from the case are these: (1) In the public sector, mandates are fleeting; a manager who ignores changes in his or her external environment courts disaster; (2) Internal management decisions can have a significant effect on an organization's sensitivity to external changes in the environment; (3) The task of a leader is to show supporters and staff, as well as those who appointed him or her, that changing times require new strategies to advance the cause they all embrace.