Friday, November 7, 2008

JMO - Government Service

In reading the articles and especially the editorials about government, meaning the whole government system of people, regulations, costs, etc., it's clear they all, on both sides, miss the real point. It's not about big or small government, it's about productive and efficient government. And this has been demonstrated, every president, including the current one, who have both increased the size and cost of government without really making it better.

And that's the key here, and the problem with poltiicians and almost every outside of government. It's easy to complain about government, and who doesn't have horror stories, but those complaints aren't fair or right, but just examples which we can also easily find in business and anywhere else. Human nature and errors are prevasive and not restricted to govenment.

I can say what I know because I spent 28 years in the Interior Deparment, specifically the US Geological Survey, and it's clear to me, almost everyone outside of government does not understand what working for the government is about and the importance of a good government workforce.

And the key is the workers are already productive and efficient. It's just the people and Congress keep demanding more work, services, etc. for less money. And as any expert can tell you there is an optimum productivity and efficiency, and passing it by increasing the work won't improve either, and in fact decreases both.

When I was a supervisor, my bosses always wanted me to schedule 100% of my staff's time and work. I didn't. I always scheduled 80% and said that the rest will easily be taken up by other tasks and work that happens in the course of the day and work. I always said when you schedule 100% of their work, they'll be working 120+% of the time squeezed into 100% of the time.

And that's neither productive or efficient, because going faster only increases the errors and always had me asking other supervisors who did schedule 100% of the staff's time, "If you don't have the time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to do it over?" And that's my point, as I found they eventually produced less, often less than in the contract, because they weren't thinking.

This was because they always unrealistically assumed the minimum of errors and wasted time, and we all know that doesn't happen. They forgot the simple idea of Murphy's law and being human. In return I rarely missed a deadline and we often did more than was originally planned, because people worked harder knowing they had the freedom and time to do their best and resolve problems before they became unsolvable.

And that's my idea to President-elect Obama, make government efficient and productive by optimimizing work, not maximizing work. The latter won't gain you anything, except problems, and the former will give the people the government they deserve, the most efficient and productive, and yes cost-efficeint employees.

You see govenment employees, from my experience, believe in their work and service. What they hate are bad managers and really bad senior managers, especially those political appointees always criticizing and sometimes demeaning, government workers for political agendas. And I know the American people appreciate government workers when they know they're doing their best for them.

Government employees want their boss to believe in them. It's a simple concept and simple to follow, if only they would, but they rarely do. And that's what you have to change. Not espouse ideas about big or small, expensive or cheap, but service to your country. The employees will follow with the most productive and efficient, and even cost-effective, work you won't believe is possible.

So Mr. Obama, that's my $.02 to you. I only ask you pass it on.

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