The management troubles that have dogged the Obama administration are not unique to Mr. Obama or his team. One of the biggest problems facing America today is that in Washington, the ability to effectively run complex organizations is among the skill sets that is least valued in our leaders.
Often people with no management experience — academics, writers or politicians who have never run an office with more than a handful of people — are put in charge of giant, complicated government agencies or processes. In part this is because so many people in government mistakenly believe that being able to articulate ideas is the same as being able to put ideas into action.
This administration provides an object lesson in how, when too many staffers have excessive influence, political calculations often trump good policy choices. When an inner circle maintains too tight a stranglehold over the president’s time and attention, too few views come into play. If isolated by an inner circle, the president will have a harder time fostering cooperation in his administration. During his first term, Mr. Obama’s inner circle included Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Pete Rouse. Even top administration officials believe these gatekeepers held power too closely. Staff casualties resulted.