Can President Trump run the government like a business?
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President Trump campaigned and was awarded the opportunity to lead our country, which includes running an organization called the U.S. government. This is notably the first time the federal government has been led by an astute businessman of his caliber. The culture changes have been eye-opening and quite dramatic. Clearly, this is not business as usual.

Although it is early in his administration, all eyes are focused on the president and judgment is pending. Many people want to know, can President Trump lead the federal government like a business? In order to answer this question, we need to look at the president’s progress so far while wearing our “business hats.” Although we do not have much to go by, we can examine his driving focus, Cabinet picks, and advisor selections.

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First, the driving focus of this administration is setting the stage for a change in culture. The vision of “making America great again” is clearly bringing change into each and every organization within the federal government. We have not yet seen a mission statement or goals and objectives, but it is apparent Trump is bringing his organizational prowess to running the business of the federal government.

 

Although the driving focus is short and sweet, it is necessary when examining a business because it represents the most important aspect of leading an organization: strategic thinking. Leaders of successful organizations set key drivers — a mission, vision, goals and objectives — so the people in an organization know where they are headed. Leadership always starts at the top with strategic direction.

Second, in his Cabinet and advisor picks, President Trump, for the most part, zeroed-in on critical knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that he felt would be required for the success of each position. This is an effective hiring technique of successful businesses which go above and beyond the basic job description and resume process for hiring.

For the staff positions, it appears that he has brought in critical thinkers and thought leaders with broad experiences in their genre. For example, Robert Lighthizer served as deputy U.S. trade representative under another administration.

For the leadership positions, requirements include not only the core KSAs, but more importantly, the leadership experience to run their organization. For example, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was the former head of U.S. Central Command, which gave him relevant experience, as well as skills needed to run a large organization. Additionally, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has run a combatant command, which has fought terrorism and protected borders.

I feel, in contrast, the weaker selections in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities are U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Neither of these necessarily have the skillsets to fill the position.

In my opinion, overall, the team President Trump has put together seems to be one of the best supporting casts we have seen since the Reagan administration and the “whiz kids” of the 1960s.

Another reason successful businesses use the KSA method to hire is because it is necessary for leaders to understand the lines of business and processes within their organization. In the case of Mattis, he ran the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He understands the different lines of business of the Defense Department, such as combat operations, acquisitions, and the administrative functions of leading thousands of people. Having this understanding allows leaders to set goals and objectives that, when reached, furthers the organization toward the strategic direction set forth by the strategic leader.

By comparing President Trump’s actions in office to those of a senior leader in a corporate organization, it may just be possible to run the U.S. government as a business. He is already applying some best practices such as KSA hiring and setting some strategic direction for his organization. But where should he go from here?

My suggestion would be to first conduct a strategic planning session to determine his other key drivers such as setting a mission statement as well as defining goals and objectives needed to “make America great again.”

Once the strategic direction is set, he should set process and results-based metrics to measure whether the strategic goals and objectives are being met. To truly understand lines of business, we leaders must move down and examine operational processes to ensure everything in our organization is aligned to keep us headed in the right direction.

Publishing goals and objectives in the strategic plan, as well as metrics that measure their progress, is a great way to objectively examine whether or not we are succeeding. Such an action would also fuel a healthy public debate, which may also be needed if he is going to survive.

Major General Michael J. Diamond, U.S. Army (retired), served a combined 35 years on active duty and in the reserves. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Diamond Strategy Group, where be advises organizations on the military, manufacturing, retail, and information technology. He and his son, Captain Christopher R. Harding, are co-authors of the forthcoming book The Diamond Process: How to Fix Your Organization and Effectively Lead People, to be published in April 2017.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.