IT IS VERY COMMON to hear that government would run better if it were more businesslike. I think that is correct. Nevertheless, I will turn the tables on that proposition. I believe that business would benefit from learning some management lessons from a surprisingly gifted governmental executive--Ronald Reagan.
Those of us who had the good fortune of working for President Reagan witnessed firsthand the effective management style of an unusually successful chief executive. Here are 10 lessons that I learned from observing him in action.
Lesson 1: Set Clear and Attainable Objectives, albeit Goals that Seem Difficult to Achieve. In early 1981, President Reagan set his sights on a healthier economy with lower inflation and lower unemployment. The cynics shook their heads. They only thought in terms of a trade-off between more jobs and a slower rise in prices. The cynics were proved to be wrong. Under his leadership, the United States achieved both important objectives--but not easily.
Aside from the substantial cuts in taxes, the adjustments made in economic policy in 1981 and 1982 were initially painful. They especially included a wide variety of spending cuts as well as a tight monetary policy. Nevertheless, those actions led to the longest peacetime expansion in American history. Simultaneously, the escalating double-digit inflation that the Reagan administration faced when we came to Washington has been consigned to the history books.
Lesson 2: Choose Subordinates Who Share Your Views and Outlook. Disagreements on details are inevitable among strong-minded people. Nevertheless, the team that Ronald Reagan brought together was united in our dedication to lower taxes, much slower growth in civilian spending, a stronger military establishment, and a less burdensome regulatory system. Progress in each of these areas was substantial during his eight years in office.
Lesson 3: Give Your People Lots of Leeway and Operating Authority....