Lessons from Past Presidential Transitions: Organization, Management, and Decision Making



    1. Professor of political science at the University of Vermont. He is author of the recently published book Pres-idential Transitions: From Politics to Practice. His previous books include The Institutional Presidency: Organizing and Managing the White House from FDR to Clinton and How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965, the winner of the Richard E. Neustadt Prize for the best book on the presidency published in 1990.
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  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article is part of the White House Interview Program, a project undertaken by presidency scholars and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The program is designed to provide information to incoming staff on White House transitions and operations. See whitehouse 2001.org for more information on the project.


In addition to careful and early consideration of the key positions on the White House staff and other appointments, transitions are also a time when presidents-to-be and their advisers need to think about how the pieces fit together into a larger whole. Part of that effort involves crafting the decision-making processes and the various channels of information and advice that, once in office, presidents will need to use in making policy choices. Another piece entails the marketing and selling of those policy proposals to the public and Congress and otherwise bringing them to successful fruition. Still another are the management task that are associated with policy making and implementation. How are the skills and talents of a diverse range of actors successfully brought together and coordinated? How is a sense of teamwork and commitment instilled and conflict and tension avoided?