Muddling Through

Government is not the same as business was the title of an article published on this blog and dated October 15, 2015. The purpose was to demonstrate that business administration and public administration are significantly different. The current occupant of the White House and some of his appointees create a need to elaborate and possibly say under my breath, “I told you so.” President Trump and his appointees have a management style that may have worked for them and added to their wealth. Conceivably it may provide the best path to success in the private sector but may be devastating in the pubic sector. This may seem somewhat callous to say but greed, misinformation, jealousy, egotism and deceit may actually work and even be legal in the private sector. Our Democratic form of government can not function properly under these techniques. Many of us have held positions which provided to us a view of various management styles. Some we may have found proper and others might have raised an eyebrow or two.

The objective of management in the private sector is to maximize profits and thereby satisfy the stockholders. Naturally the ongoing security of the business, the product and competitive position are functions of management. However money remains the bottom line and that is a correct objective. Management in the public sector must serve the public and strive for cost efficiency and effectiveness but an actual bottom line is more difficult to define. The stockholders in public sector management are the people, the general public. The best operating government agency will have supporters and objectors. Part of the public may believe a service is essential and others less so. Therefore public sector managers can’t simply say profits are up and everyone is happy. There is an ongoing effort to convince people the service is needed and operating at the most efficient level. This can be a difficult task. The board of directors, the legislature, may be arguing among themselves over the value of certain services. The stockholders, the public, may be divided on the need or level of benefits as well.

There is an exception to this private sector assumption. Some private corporations are not public and have no shareholders. The CEO must only answer to him or herself. The CEO may be successful and indifferent to the employees or be a caring boss. This creates an I can do whatever I want mindset. Granted this manager has the same operational concerns as other managers. He or she wants the business to survive and grow. This is the background that Mr. Trump brings to the White House. His private company he could run as he deemed appropriate and apparently was personally financially successful.

Mr. Trump now as President of the United States and his executive branch are in turmoil. Mr. Trump’s personality aside he doesn’t seem to get it. The executive branch of government is not his corporate world nor should it be. His board of directors, the Congress, have been nonfunctioning for some time but that is a discussion for another time. They are his to address in order to be a successful public manager. His stockholders, the general public, began his presidency split and that gap he has actually grown. It is the chief executive’s job to lead and bring cohesion to these various divisions. Mr. Trump can never be an effective public sector manager unless he understands the difference between Mr. Trump as corporate president and President Trump. A well-known public administrator described the process of public administration as “muddling through.” If Mr. Trump hopes to be a successful President Trump, he better start muddling.

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