President Nixon organized his White House into three functional areas: The Office of the President, the National Security Council and the Domestic Council.
Each President makes his own decisions on how he wants his White House to operate. There have been seven Presidents who have occupied the White House since President Nixon’s departure. However, the structure of the modern White House and its operations remain virtually unchanged since it was established during the Nixon years.
The architect of the management structure and virtually all the procedures implemented during the Nixon administration was Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman. Haldeman’s organizational and management skills have been acknowledged by many of his Chief of Staff successors. They recognize Haldeman made a historic contribution to the office of the Presidency with the organizational structure and management procedures he introduced in the White House.
The most precious asset any President has is his time. Time is a diminishing asset and it must be used judiciously. Presidents and their respective staffs determine how their management style impacts their priorities—the daily schedule, communicating with the nation, travel and getting the daily office work of the presidency completed.
President Nixon entered office with more government experience than any modern President. From his vast experience through service first in the House of Representatives and then the Senate, followed by eight years as President Eisenhower’s Vice President, all supported by his keen political and intellectual instincts, President Nixon knew how he wanted his White House to work and how he wanted to use his time. That said, as documents will underscore, President Nixon continually experimented with and changed his work pattern and that of his staff. He was always seeking the optimum way to operate. The challenges of his administration changed from year to year, if not month-to-month, and he adapted to those changes by personally deciding how his time would be used. He always made these changes and adjustments in consultation with Haldeman who was accountable for implementation and follow-up.
A significant management feature of The Office of the President is that the President’s schedule management systems were flexible. The team Haldeman assembled easily adapted to the President’s changing priorities and need to refocus. The only constant in the Nixon White House was change. This is to some extent true of all White Houses because the word routine does not define how White House business is conducted in today’s world.
The organizational and management systems were instilled in the Nixon White House along with a business management approach, which might best be defined as “no nonsense”. Solid business practices and decorum were expected of all. The requirement was professionalism, teamwork, and the subordination of personal agendas to that of the President and his goals. In the Nixon White House this meant loyalty and unity, characteristics of behavior and attitude that Bob Haldeman exhibited through his professional and personal conduct, and which served as an example to be emulated by all members not only of the White House staff but of appointees in the Departments and Agencies who were expected to follow Haldeman’s example. In so doing they best served the President and, in turn, the nation.