Donald Trump: America’s first project management president

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Donald Trump, as president, was terrific. A breath of fresh air from the dull, boring, self-serving members of the swamp. But what really made him stand out was his delivery of work products of substance.

Donald Trump comes from the world of project management. When Donald Trump’s organization builds commercial properties, it delivers them based upon not good intentions, hot air, and lying to the stakeholders by claiming activities are results. Stuff really has to be done. In Trump’s private business world, this means well-planned projects managed by competent project managers who live and die on meeting task schedules with solid deliverables.

Project management is an exciting discipline. It maps out all the work via a work breakdown structure, resources, and time required to deliver a project within the dollars allocated. Here are two essential elements of it: tasks and lessons learned.

A project is organized as a series of tasks that must be completed. Each one has a timeline, resources, dependencies, an owner, and a deliverable. This is the management environment Trump operated in and excelled at. This couldn’t be said for many of his political appointees, who expected to get away with the usual delivering of nothing — the traditional big government incompetence. But Trump demanded results. He assigned task owners and concrete, clearly defined deliverables. I suspect that it had to surprise Trump and for sure the Trump voters at large that so many political appointees were so incompetent. Their résumés were more fiction than fact. The career swamp players. Probably no political leader, coming from an organization built upon competence, has had to face the challenge of delivering on his promises via work products being produced by first-rate bozos. It has confirmed to many Americans that political appointees get ahead based on whom they know, not what they know.

Now that he’s taking a break from a possible second term, it’s logical to assume that he has executed the lessons learned phase. Lessons learned are made up of two parts. Problems and successes. What did we do wrong, and why did those things go wrong? What did we do right, and why did we get it right? These conversations are challenging, blunt, and to the point. The outputs from lessons learned will become inputs to the next project. Watching Trump these last few weeks, it’s clear to me he and his team have performed this critical assessment for going forward.

I’m going to speculate here. Trump has assessed himself, the strategies, the staff and Cabinet requirements, organizational obstacles, required communication channels, funding, goals going forward, et cetera. He’s now operating with a plan shaped by the realities of his lessons learned.

Some folks want to believe that Trump operates by the seat of his pants. They have it wrong. He assesses, plans, and executes. Stay tuned.