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After the elections, the first 90 days Published: Sunday, November 7, 2004 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

At the end of the movie "The Candidate", Robert Redford, having won an upset victory, asks to himself: "What do I do now?” This is a fundamental and very serious question for anyone who works in an election campaign. Whether a candidate win or lose, there are important things to be done. The new elected candidate and those he appoints to government positions have the task of implementing the core campaign promises, transforming the political process, and serving in an honorable and wise way. This will make those who work so hard to elect his candidate proud on their sacrifices. It is more complex to govern than to run an election campaign.

Having campaigned on issues powerful enough to mobilize the people and win over voters, candidates now must work on their promises. Otherwise, in a shorter period than ever they will set back the mass movement that elected them. On the other hand, if they start to practice the art of becoming outstanding public officials, they will win the will and respect of thousands, who doubted them originally. Politics is the art of adding not subtracting support.

There are some quick recommendations. Immediately, appoint an intelligent transition team to analyze the government you are to lead; appoint tenacious, wise and capable officials to the cabinet, and set forth the core agenda of change and transformation. Remember that there is no need for leadership in order to preserve the status quo. An ideal transition team is composed of former government officials, academicians, executives from corporations and officials, heads of public interest groups, among others. They must be loyal to the official who appointed them, but they, must also be knowledgeable, creative and dare to speak truth to power. The new Executive should appoint the best cabinet members available. Never appoint Yes men and women, because this is the sure way to a disaster. Avoid the new team becoming a victim of the homogeneous groupthink. The purpose is to incorporate different views and backgrounds, and with overlapping areas of authority, so those disputes between them are brought to the cabinet team for final decision. Appointing cabinet members is the first sign a new governor will give the public of emerging policy directions.

A wise Chief Executive appoints the best people possible and gives them the authority to run their agencies. Of course, new appointees should be alert that the higher the complexity in their undertakings, the stronger should be the tendency to consult and share in advance critical issues. If they make major mistakes, they can be fired and replaced, but the best people with authority to make dramatic changes will do the most to improve.

The elected candidate should present his operational agenda for change and work very hard within the first year in office. In this honeymoon period, the legislative branch interpreting that the Chief Executive has been elected with a kind of mandate is most likely to support drastic programmatic changes. The obligation is to establish a progressive agenda and to begin advancing for it in the inaugural address, the cabinet appointments, and the first legislative package. Again, critical decisions have to be made by the time he is sworn into office.

The real changes on government do not normally occur incrementally, but in a breakthrough manner. The aim has to be that of combining applied vision with a clear knowledge driven approach to initiating, designing and implementing organizational changes. Some core principles of successful management for the new leaders are appropriate people involvement, committed leadership, valid information, informed choices and integrated change. If by any chance you lost the election, pay your debts, give thanks to your supporters, demonstrate sportsmanship and be willing to contribute to other good causes.

The theory of the first 90 days establishes that you have such a short time to get on top of the job and move forward or fail. There are dramatic strategies that will shorten the time it takes to reach breakeven point, which is the point at which the organization needs you as much as you need and want to stay in the job.

The challenge and the task are to develop a transition acceleration plan tailored to the situation, the level of seniority and expertise, and the condition of the organization in which the new leader or actor is going to execute. The actionable tools are: (1) Assess your strengths and weaknesses and identify personal vulnerabilities. (2) Diagnose your situation and understand it challenges and opportunities. (3) Negotiate a productive working relationship with the people. (4) Secure early wins that establish credibility and create momentum. (5) Build your team and connect with influential critical mass (6) Align strategy, structure, systems, and skills to enable success. (7) Balance personal, professional and institutional demands during the transition. Learn, then swim or else sink.

 


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