Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The first 100 days: Steps to effectively run the federal government

February 6, 2017 David Eagles

Bloomberg Government regularly publishes insights, opinions and best practices from our community of senior leaders and decision-makers. This column is written by David Eagles, director of Presidential Transitions for the Partnership for Public Service.

President Donald Trump has a great deal to do in the next several months if he wants to deliver on his promises and effectively run the federal government.

With 45 percent of Americans concerned that Trump cannot effectively manage the executive branch, according to a recent Gallup poll, the president should take a number of steps to ensure a smooth operation of the government:

Quickly appoint leadership teams: While President Trump has named more than 25 percent of his top 100 agency leaders, he needs to move quickly to create a diverse and qualified leadership team to support each of his Cabinet secretaries. This means selecting, vetting and winning Senate confirmation for deputy secretaries and other senior leaders who will be critical to effectively deliver services to the American people.

Prepare his team to succeed: Political appointees who are new to government will face unexpected challenges – from working with three concurrent budgets in the first year of an administration to managing a career workforce. To help them succeed, Trump should institute clear decision-making processes for his leadership team, establish clarity of responsibility and ensure his appointees across the departments and agencies are equipped to operate in the unique federal environment.

Build a constructive relationship with the federal workforce: People are the most important ingredient for success in any organization. Trump should communicate his administration’s priorities to the federal workforce and let them know they are vital to achieving this vision. He should set up channels within agencies to get advice from career policy experts and from those who will be involved carrying out his administration’s initiatives so he and his team will fully understand the complexities, challenges and potential pitfalls of their decisions. Joint teams of political appointees and senior career executives should be formed at the agencies and departments to drive the administration’s priorities and manage operations.

Implement a comprehensive management agenda: Government is big, complex and fragmented, and navigating this enterprise requires a management roadmap that can turn the president’s agenda into accomplishment. Inattention to government management has consequences, and history has shown that there is a heavy political price to pay when things go wrong. Creating a management agenda and making it a priority will be critical to the success of the Trump administration.

Assume big problems require agencies to work together: None of today’s challenges, from immigration to cybersecurity, can be solved by any single agency acting alone. The new administration should act quickly to build cross-agency teams on priority issues so the government can operate as a one organization, not as separate fiefdoms with overlapping jurisdiction and duplicative programs.

Engage Congress proactively: There is a pervasive sense that those running executive branch agencies and those serving in Congress often live in parallel universes. In order to accomplish the administration’s goals, Cabinet secretaries and their deputies should develop and build working relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to improve understanding, build trust and solve problems.

The first 100 days will help set the stage for the Trump presidency. If the president is able to get his leadership team in place and effectively manage the federal government, he stands a far greater chance of implementing his policy agenda and providing effective services to the American people.