Bureaucracy is the Problem

30 May

In the discussion of the problems with the VA, IRS, CIA, FBI, NSA, all the other alphabet agencies we know about and those we do not are all focusing on the Secretaries we appoint to serve and their immediate assistants.  The problem is not there.  It is down below with the people who have to operate in an environment created by the system.  Problems in the system are usually caused by lean budgets that simply could not stretch enough to cover the need.

The challenge is that, as a nation, we never address problems in reality until we are forced to do so.  We are a nation controlled by the numbers we have set in place to take care of the norm, but everything is not normal.

For instance if we want to set a budget for any department we ask the heads of those departments to give us a budget need for the next year.  Usually the ask each of their subservient department heads to submit their need for next year based on their budget spent for last year.

This is when all the spending of the funds not needed last year get spent, so they can increase the amount needed next year.  This isn’t wrong because we have put the bureaucrats in a position that if they run out of money, their ass is on the line.  There is no mechanism to reduce the budgets or plan for disaster.

Now we have to let the number management system run our government.  Therefore the underlings use that system to control their own smaller departments.  If the numbers work the department wins.

President Carter scared everyone when he wanted to go to zero based budgeting.  This would have been a good start.

Now we should look at number system as the cause of malfunction.  If workers are judged by the numbers produced by their superiors, the worker will make the numbers work.

The point is the government does not hire managers; they hire people that are or will become auditors.  They then have people that teach them that a good auditor is a good manager.  Corporations work the same way that is the reason they cannot be controlled by the law under which they operate.

Now the elected government wants to fix the problems in the bureaucracy by using the same methods that have not worked in my lifetime.  Any time one addresses the situation either in the government or corporations, it has to be fixed by training their present staff to become managers.  Even a person working with no one under him or her has to be a good manager.

 W. Edwards Deming, born in 1900 and was a very significant contributor to the production quality of the Japanese business process after World War II, related a story of one of his consulting visits to a company here in the United State where he asked a phone call operators what her job was.  She said that she didn’t know for sure.  The company wanted her to make 40 phone calls and hour and wanted her to sell 3 per hour.  She said she didn’t know which was the most important, making the correct number of calls per hour or selling 3 per hour.

In that case, as in most cases like that, the numbers became the manager.  The person that was the manager might as well not even been present.

Training managers that can train their employees to service the public should be the primary focus of our government.  Just think of the times you need to speak with a government employee to get an answer.  Are you intimidated?  Of course you are.  We all are.  They are not trained to help the public.  They are trained to help each other hold their jobs.

If we are to win back the control of our government we need to repair this problem.

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