Will dumpster-fire style evolve into thoughful policymaking?
Thursday, February 23, 2017 12:34 PM
By Bruce Lachney
Bruce Lachney, an Eatonville-area resident, hopes President Trump "can learn something" about management from his secretary of defense.
I have been lucky. For nearly 40 years, I have had the pleasure to work with numerous exceptional CEOs, college presidents, commanders, executive directors and managers. The best of the lot have one common thread: They know that their job is to manage people, not things.
They know that their job is to manage specialists. No one executive can manage all aspects of an organization. That's why there are VPs of finance, experts in operations and specialists in logistics.
It is fair to question whether our present commander-in-chief ever learned that particular lesson.
It would be easy to throw stones at the president's specific policies –immigration, the Affordable Care Act, the wall, net neutrality, freezing federal workforce hiring – but those are for a different day. Let's focus on the totality of his method.
Governmental agencies are complex organizations. They serve many masters with numerous and various interests. Unlike a business that has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, governments serve the people – a gumbo to different interests. As such, policy is developed inclusive to stakeholder participation. It abhors the narcissism of any single person who believes they know best.
This slow-cooked gumbo, comfort food for the people, is sometimes excruciatingly measured to create. This collaborative approach speaks to our history. There were 86 changes to the Declaration of Independence before its acceptance; a system of checks and balances. This deliberative approach to policy limits abrupt and chaotic overreaction to personal whim or special-interest pandering. It cannot be made in a fantasy of self-love, paternalistically overvaluing an “I know best” vision. And, it cannot be communicated with 140 characters in a tweet.
It is perhaps too early to actually evaluate whether President Trump's policy-management approach will continue to be so chaotic, or whether his dumpster-fire approach to policy development will evolve into a more thoughtful method. It is not too early to castigate the timidity of congressmen who once promoted “Never Trump” and now cow to the bellicose thunder from the Oval Office. So, too, they should be reminded of their hypocrisy of spending much of the last eight years denouncing Obama for the use of his “imperial pen,” signing executive orders, only now to cheer at Trump's use of the quill.
As for Trump, perhaps we saw a glimmer of cognitive reason. When asked by ABC News about the use of torture, he said, “Does torture work? Yes. Absolutely.” Yet, he was submissive enough to defer to retired Marine general Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, who believes, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.”
Now that is exceptional management. Maybe Trump can learn something from Mattis' management method.
Bruce Lachney is an Eatonville-area resident, a former Marine Corps pilot, and currently a member of the Clover Park Technical College Board of Trustees.