Written for Clinton 1, implemented in National Performance Review

January 25, 2009 § Leave a comment


Douglass Carmichael Mon, Oct 26, 1992

The focus of the Transition Team (TI’) tends to be on Issues and personalities. The TT assumes that the structure will be traditional. The TI’ Is already facing major problems of managing the emerging issues. The TT must create expectations NOW to counter the turfing tendencies that will dominate the administration unless there is a very strong mandate. Supported from the President and Vice President, for a different kind of structure to daily life around the president, cabinet and staff.

Appointees’ expectations of their new job

WHA (Using the abbreviation WHA for White House
Administration) all appointees, and cabinet officers) will adapt to what they expect to encounter. If no major statement about the style and structure of the administration Is made, people will assume Its old style. When you get accepted at a college you’ve an Image In your mind as to what It will be like. Expectations will shape behavior more even than who is chosen. internal management style will be especially Important for this group of WHA because they come from academic or public Interest organizations, both of which are known for old style authoritarian management in a crisis, laissez faire the rest of the time, with no development for themselves or staff. The tendency Is towards jungle fighting and turflsm.

Fragmented turfism, or teams of teams – need for a choice now.

Feynman pointed out that what destroyed NASA’S managerial integrity was that grandiosity at the top was Incompatible with facts from the bottom. This cannot be allowed to happen. The danger Is that the WA will get bogged down In the old style White House management. WHA will come with their constituencies clamoring for their fax number as they receive their office assignment and look for the schedule of the first meeting. Quickly individual WHA will get tagged with issues or agencies, each fighting to look good to their constituencies and get the President’s time. They will mistrust each other and fragment the agenda.

Teams of Teams

The answer is that the issues agenda must be organized broadly around teams in a vastly redesigned physical workspace. Teams start with the Cabinet itself, which can be organized into a number of teams, lets say eight, with overlapping membership. Almost all issues for the Clinton presidency will be cross functional, complex, inter departmental issues. Teams with over-lapping membership must be the rule at least two levels down for all WHA. I strongly suggest that there be regional and state teams across all the federal departments and agencies, geographically dispersed.

The President’s time

A team of teams allows the President to participate with teams (his best mode) and avoid the dealing that comes with one- on-one meetings. He can pick and choose among teams and remain much more flexible than with a calendar of single point contacts. The teams need to be able to function on their own, with authority, with the President’s participation and veto. This kind of participation also should be extended to the Vice President.

Assignments of shared responsibility

All WHA with line responsibility should have backup responsibility for another major area. Their participation in business which is not their direct line is legitimate. They must get into each others’ underwear, so to speak. This shared responsibility Is necessary to surface interdependencles among issues, and to develop the sensitivity and understanding of the WHA to the complex ramifications of Issues in a democratic society.

The team of teams

The major difficulty will not be the teams, but the teams’ relationships with each other. Just as Individuals act childishly when In a field of great power, the teams will be Jealous and mean unless cross team membership and good coaching are available to maintain the quality of the atmosphere.

Learning when solutions are not of hand

It will be important to start and continue with the and assumption that no one knows the full answers to the major issues confronting the administration and the new ones that unexpectedly will emerge without warning. The White House atmosphere must be one of continua] learning and openness. Beware of WHA who act as If they know the solutions. Most of the “solutions” can only come from a liberated civil service executive branch, given a direction such as “put people first” and “we cant afford to waste a single person”, who can then work solutions.

Invited experts

Whenever someone is Invited to brief the President and the teams, they are given only the most minimal briefing to figure out what the WHA wants to hear. It should be standard practice that all guests are told the current state of thinking and the options, and allowed to critique that if necessazy. The visits should always be dialogues and conversations, not presentations to a mute audience. Both sides suffer In such presentations.

The six main points for WHA management

(Clinton should be willing to be a one term president. More can get done by principle and losing the electorate but wining the transformation than by coddling too much. Clinton’s desire to include Is a great strength and should be the first strategy.)

WHA management can be boiled down to six major
points. The first requires the second requires the third… .buflding from the issues towards the means.

1. issues and goals

Start with hundred year scenarios, not one, but several, to encourage flexibility.


development of full person
in tune with the environment
communitarian and Individualist
redefining the equity of capital
small business
craft and sociability in the non urban areas
redefining the transportation needs
dealing with education towards the quality of life
dealing with drugs towards health
overnment in partnership with other forms of governance


new empires (China. Islam)
technologies (especially used for concentration of ownership)
private armies
too many have not’s
environmental collapse

Then bring the scenarios quickly down to twentyfive
years. sixteen, eight, four, one. Then details, with constant
reference to the larger picture.

2. Teams

To avoid special pleading and the broad cross Issue/cross agency nature of our problems, and to better manage the president’s time, teams, starting at the Cabinet level should be formed, down to the second level of management In the Departments (the assistant secretaries). Decentralization should be encouraged with regional and state offices established where cross departmental teams reflecting the style of the Whitehouse take responsibility for the “act locally “part of the national agenda.


First, do no harm. Do not start with the view that the agencies need to be shaken up. Expect that people Inside can tell WHA about the opportunities. The WHA should listen and learn from those under them, and liberate. There are too many controls. This Is a perverse form of accountability that Is costly and takes basic work away from contact with the front line work and its potential good. The Reagan/Bush years have filled the appointee level with those whose main function was to stop action, and who were small minded people whose self esteem rests primarily on petty tasks of rewriting staff memos and running the United Way campaign. The good effect has been that in many cases people were left alone and did good work that could be useful. Don’t destroy this! We need a new group of political appointees whose Job It is to create the atmosphere of vision and guidance and give the civil servants lots of room to explore how to carry it out. My suggestion is that the agencies are filled with good work that has lost Its meaning, Is never used, and is strategically misdirected. The civil servants are waiting for an opportunity to be useful and the basic Instinct of most civil servants is in sympathy with the goals of the Clinton administration.

The WHA must be clear that it is not their Job to micro manage, or even manage, but to create a sense of how their agencies fit overall goals, and communicate this to the civil servants.

There are many cases in which civil service managers have become, under the long years of Reagan/Bush hostility to any action, dysfunctional. There needs to be massive education The ODN conference made it clear that the days of training – driving knowledge at people – is over. It Is education, and unlearning that must be encouraged) for civil servants, delicately done to help them become facilitators of their own groups, less turf oriented, broader and more humane (see Doug lamer’s Madness at Work, mostly about federal managers and their negative impact on those working for them).

It will be important to work towards balance, true balance between center and periphery. Lots of strong central direction, but the Whitehouse should not be the court of Louis XV. Enhanced regional life must be the goal and enhanced regional management must be part of it, all the way down to the smallest Federal offices. The tendency to hoard power at each level down will amaze. Fight it. There Is plenty of power for everyone In a vital system.

3. Space.

The space around the president should be radically redesigned. In bureaucracies space hides realities. In the WHA space must teach everyone what the work Is, who Is who, what is the strategy. It should look more like a very successful architectural studio with working models than like an Insurance company accounting room with lots of anonymous paper. Color, openness, graphic displays of problems and places. and much more should be Implemented quickly and experimentally. This should extend to the secretaries space at the Departments and directors at the agencies, and regional/state administration team centers.

4. Communications

Computer conferencing. bringing together those distributed in space and time (even within the White House and OEOB) should be the center hub of the administration: Open. team supporting, friendly text based conversation. E-mail, fax, data, and graphics should be available through the same system but in the background.

An electronic conferencing and e-mail system with the aid of Metasystems Design Group, would be the tool of choice for communication, group support and administration memory. Such a system is necessary for openness when people travel much, arid meetings are often missed, but most Importantly to support the regional/state teams and create a coherent White House culture while encouraging dispersal. Continuity of being well informed and heard Is essential for trust and efficacy.

5. Who

First, there should be a requirement of no use of
Whitehouse connections five years after leaving the

The rush will be to get younger people, but it is Important that age spread be maintained below the top level. Reflection and wisdom should be In balance with raw energy. People with complex work histories are preferred to single career people, but depth is also important. Character – not just ethical – but basic style and motive – ego, control, technocratic, need to be balanced by care, vision, experience. ability to create relationships and dialogue. Watch carefully the emotional texture of the emerging group. There are two ways to manage, affection and fear. Anger will be a problem In this administration. It is Important to have a culture – and people – who are not basically aggressively hostile, with negative projections and fear. Basic friendliness is going to be Important. Avoid too many appointees who only want to work with those they already know.

Do more on helping WHA relocate to Washington. so that
time is not wasted nor families stressed. The use of computer
conferencing as a support service would help.

6. The need for aconsulting team to manage the process

All five points require creativity way beyond this short paper If implementation is to be successful. The openness of the process of teams of teams, the complexity of the issues requires learning, and consciousness of mental maps. The team of teams need learning how to interrelate, the experts from academia need to learn how to be team players and see things at the periphery of their own skills. Conflict resolution and negotiation skills need to be learned. The new design of the Administration workspace, and the decentralization require experimentation with the goal of creating a coherent culture and implementabilit
y of the programs.

How to do it?

An internal coaching team to help the teams and maintain the atmosphere of learning should be available on request, and remain well informed through continuous presence.

To us as consultants

We consultants cannot function adequately without getting connected on line In an electronic conference now. Also we must be careful to recognize that our youth and enthusiasm does not neglect the concerns of older and better connected people. We need them and they need us In a partnership to help this transition create the possibility for a brilliant Clinton Presidency at a time of opportunity for America.




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