Saturday, February 24, 2018
Opinion

Column: How Trump can make his job easier

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency as a billionaire businessman who would bring private-sector expertise to Washington, D.C. But as he quickly discovered, it is much harder running the federal government than a family enterprise.

The White House got off to a rocky start during its first weeks, appearing disorganized and in turmoil at times. Every new administration has encountered speed bumps and made mistakes, having never faced the enormous task of managing such a large, complicated enterprise as the federal government.

The true test, however, will be how fast Trump and his team adjust and whether they will learn the right lessons from this baptism by fire.

Based on the experience of past administrations, here are steps the president and his team should take to manage the government better, create more orderly decisionmaking processes and engender greater public confidence:

• ACCELERATE THE NOMINATION OF AGENCY LEADERSHIP TEAMS. Running the U.S. government is a team sport, and the Trump administration is behind in putting its team on the field, even if the president intends to leave some positions unfilled, as he indicated recently. The president's personnel operation must step up its game, selecting hundreds of political appointees needing Senate confirmation as quickly as possible — starting with the deputy, under- and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels and ambassadors.

• EMPOWER THE CABINET. There is a big difference between operating a bed-and-breakfast and a Trump hotel. There is an even bigger difference between running a large corporation and a government with $4 trillion in yearly spending, 2 million civilian employees, hundreds of agencies and 535 members of a board of directors known as Congress.

The government is too large and complex to micromanage everything from the White House, where urgent issues crowd out important matters and complete information is hard to come by. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized President Barack Obama for consolidating too much power in the White House, arguing that the president's staff should respect the role of the Cabinet secretaries and make them partners in policymaking. To successfully address the diversity of issues managed by our government, the president will need his White House to set the direction and coordinate activities but expect autonomous action by agencies and their leaders. Trying to run everything through the tiny White House pipe is a recipe for getting little done and allowing smaller problems to mushroom into crises.

• SEEK OUT PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND HOW OUR GOVERNMENT WORKS. You can't drain the swamp without the expertise of people who understand swamps, and when it comes to government, you can't successfully change the system without naming political appointees in deputy and other agency leadership jobs who know the ins and outs of the agencies and their operations. Bringing in outsiders without experience to shake things up sounds fine, but you need a strong subset of people with a clear understanding of the government you are trying to change.

• DON'T VIEW CAREER CIVIL SERVANTS AS THE ENEMY. The president and his Cabinet face a big challenge of making full use of the skills and expertise of the career workforce. Trump needs to find ways to work with — not go to battle against — the people in his own administration to be successful.

The president will set policy and should expect it to be carried out by federal employees. But he should also create decisionmaking processes that allow experts inside the government to have a voice, to offer ways to improve policies and to raise red flags that could help avoid embarrassment or prevent harm to the nation. Slamming the door on authorized channels for dissent or dialogue will result only in increased leaking of information, creating unnecessary firestorms.

• REMEMBER THAT IMPLEMENTATION MATTERS. Thomas Edison aptly observed that vision without execution is hallucination. It is one thing to issue executive orders and make grand policy announcements; it is another to carry them out. How policies are implemented is critical — a lack of attention to detail has burned many an administration, caused scandals and political fallout, and set back the best-laid plans.

One of the great tests for highly successful individuals taking on new and different challenges is whether they are able to adjust to the changed circumstances. Trump has the opportunity to demonstrate he can be an effective leader on the biggest stage in the world, but he will need to change his playbook and management approach if he wants a well-functioning government that meets the needs of the American people.

Max Stier is president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service. © 2017 Washington Post

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18