"Bureaucracy" and "opportunity"… normally those aren't symbiotic terms unless you're a glutton for punishment, but in today's job market and post-election idealism, perhaps it's a new day.
It would be great to get some smart people into government again. People that understand who the real customer is, understand that budgets and spending is not a zero-sum game and that by improving internal processes you can do more with less. But good luck with that.
That excitement is about to run into the hard wall of reality, though. Ms. Kamarck recently co-wrote a study for the progressive think tank
Third Way that found that 17% of Americans trust the federal
government, the lowest number since pollsters first asked the question
in 1958. Twice as many people said they trusted the government during
the Reagan administration than now, even though the former president
famously declared government "the problem" rather than "the solution to
our problem" in his 1981 inaugural address.
A lot of the problem has to do with the characteristics massive bureaucracies themselves.
But a greater turnoff is the sluggishness of an employer with 2.7
million civilian workers world-wide, says Prof. Light. "It's not the
mission, it's the job," he says.
Working for the government is "an exercise in patience," says
Deborah Kerson Bilek, 27 years old, who joined the government in 2005
after winning a fellowship sponsored by the government's Office of
Personnel Management, its human-resources arm. "I work inside a machine
that doesn't move as fast as I would like to move."
This leads to massive retention problems.
But too many others are young eager beavers "who throw up their hands
in despair" after two or three years, says New York University's Paul
Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy. According to the government's latest statistics, it hired 264,000
workers and "separated" 251,000 in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30,
Think about the waste of training investment and knowledge. Incredible. And personally painful when you realize who's really paying for all of that waste. But it gets worse.
Many agencies won't hire outsiders for top jobs. It takes years to
remove ineffective coworkers, and political appointees may get the best
postings. Hiring one employee can involve 110 steps, and pay and
promotion are set by time on the job, not performance. And almost
everyone needs to take a test to get in.
And that's sympomatic of the root of the problem. 110 steps to hire an employee? Seniority over performance? An inability to remove the wrong people? And that's the organization we want to be efficient at using our hard-earned taxpayer money to deliver services?
Sounds like the first thing Mr. Obama should do is read up on TPS, value stream mapping, and kaizen. We've already talked about some cities and states that are deploying lean manufacturing methods. Any underemployed lean consultants want to take a stab at this most massive and convoluted of "opportunities"?