Project Management, Leadership, and the US Presidential Election

Project Management can be difficult in many organizations. Depending on the organizational structure it can be near impossible for the project manager to have the power, influence, or resources to complete a task.

Communication is core to project management. Some estimates run that 90% of project management is communication. In fact, the definition of a project is a temporary endeavor to create a new product or service. By this definition I find that the President of the United States of America is both a project manager and a project.

The end product of a presidents term is an improved (by their standard) United States of America. Hence, the President of the United States of America needs to be very strong in communication.

Difficulties in this project are nearly all involved in stakeholder management. All members of congress are stakeholders. All citizens of the US are stakeholders. And the job of the president is basically change management – as you won’t find many candidates for president that run on a platform of ‘everything is fine, lets just keep everything the same, we don’t need any new laws, and no old laws should be removed from the books.’  That might be a great end point for the long term interrelated projects of all the presidents.

Stakeholder management is a problem because (as in many project I have worked) there is little agreement of what exactly is wrong that needs to be addressed by the project ‘President of the United States of America’. In addition, no one agrees on metrics to understand the current state of the USA. Many followers of Donald disagree with the numbers that are provided by many organizations inside and outside of the government that indicate that things are getting better.

How do you convince a stakeholder that doesn’t believe in your data of the ‘as-is’ state of the project? Well, you might take them out to dinner, show them by taking them to certain operations and showing that there is a low error rate (maybe fewer items in the garbage at a 3D printing company), and take them on interviews with customer stakeholders that agree that things are going well.

But you can’t do that with 40% of the electorate. Even if you could there may be problems in the decoding of your communication that they might still not agree on the current ‘as-is’ state.

What I think almost all citizen stakeholders can agree is that where we are today as a country requires improvement.

There is a massive problem in communication with Donald Trump. This alone really disqualifies him as being project manager for the United States of America.

Based on his speaking during the debates he is unable to communicate clearly or even in sentences that can be parsed by everyone. ‘Word Soup’ many people are calling it. Imagine you are the project team (or the members of the government) following commands that they cannot parse? Even worse, he often makes statements and then contradicts those statements in the future. Anyone attempting to follow his leadership will quickly learn that perhaps taking no action is better than taking an action based on Donald’s words – since you could get in a huge amount of problems if you do anything based on his communications.

I have seen this in organizations that I have worked. It is a stressful situation for employees. Clear communication is a requirement for leadership in business or in government. It also lends to employees wondering that if something their leader has stated doesn’t work out – that their leader will suddenly have vanishing executive support for their ‘project’.

So, the communication problems that Donald has  – word soup and countering his previous statements – turn in to real world leadership problems.

I have also been a member of the US Military. Military processes require clear communication. Suppose we have some of our military being made fun or taunted by members of another countries military. Based on Donald’s statements, perhaps they should shoot at them? But, we don’t know if he really meant that, so perhaps we shouldn’t shoot at him. He is the commander in chief. His orders to the military overrides any general. Although, typically, what the president says directly doesn’t give orders to specific people in the military. It flows through the chain of command.

Still, though, if they were taunted, and should one or more of them behave like children and fire at another countries troops starting a war – you can’t really blame them, can you?

The prevention of war is a pillar of improving life in the United States of America. This questionable communication is a threat to everyone.

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