A core part of being human is the passion to serve. Through my conversations with many people over many years it’s easy to see that for most human beings nothing is more fundamental than the desire to serve others.
People who chose to work in government are no different. Yet, as citizens we are often critical of government workers and the word “bureaucrat” has become a negative word. It stands for red tape and poor service.
Do you see the disconnect though?
People go to work in government to serve citizens, but something gets in the way. Something prevents them from providing the great service they very much want to provide.
My work and my beliefs center around the fact that we all live and work in systems. A system is a collection of processes that all lead to some sort of outcome. Most systems are the result of a collective set of actions, policies and decisions made over a long period of time. My experience is that over time certain systems unintentionally make it more difficult, not less, to achieve the outcomes we want. Then it becomes easy to lose sight of the outcome we desire.
For those who work in government today the simple reality is they are often not able to do what they want or what citizens need. They do what the system requires of them. This is not different than any private company – the rules people work in are the rules the organization has adopted.
But the reality is that if the system does not allow people to do the right thing to achieve the desired outcomes, then the system needs to be improved or possibly redesigned. Unintended results come from systems that are not designed but are really, in blunt terms, an accident. This unintended system is the result of so many laws and regulations having accumulated over the years and the system has become extremely complex and convoluted. When you hear such things as education reform, those are code words for a systems redesign.
If you work inside an accidental system you understand what I mean.
The solution is to step back and intentionally design the system, design the system with one thing in mind: the outcomes you want. Yes, certain laws and regulations need to exist to protect against undesired outcomes. However, balance needs to be restored to the system so that employees’ good intentions can be better realized.
When you talk to your friend or neighbor who works for a government agency, you’ll find they are just as passionate about service as you are. They truly do care.
So, redesigning government’s systems makes all the sense in the world.