public outreach

Embrace the Mundanity

With the rise of technology, everyone is looking for the new genius who will solve problems that currently bother no one. For private industry, this could be a good thing depending on how what is created affects the world as it exists. Such worship of individualism has led to the denouncement of government as inefficiency in the flesh. So many people believe that if only government could afford such genius–which is, of course, worth every penny–then all problems would be solved. Fortunately, people who actually work in government recognize that even geniuses can be clueless when it comes to running government entities.

One of the key elements to a successful public entity is the ability to respond to how people are behaving and adapt. For example, when websites became part of daily life, government entities got websites and uploaded all the forms and processes. However, most governments stopped there and viewed websites as static documents that could only be changed after endless meetings and legal reviews. Instead, it would be prudent for noting that if people are having problems understanding the website and have similar complaints to each other, the website should be changed on a regular basis, i.e. every quarter. There are countless examples, but people in charge should be willing to accept that they might have had the wrong answers and respond to constituents.

Another problem is that many managers expect that people will work in isolation without having to confront other parts of other processes within government. This is irrational based on how much collaboration exists in the world–so much so that remote work is a reasonable aspiration for coming generations. Pretending that work is efficient if everyone does one task the same way indefinitely is part of the devolution of government; no one works that way anymore. Therefore, effective management reviews how processes affect each other, and make sure everyone’s tasks progress the processes.

Most importantly, local government decision makers need a complete makeover as to how they address low-level staff. If people are trained to be gatekeepers without offering real information, agencies fall into dysfunction based on management ignoring the public and front line staff absorbing infinite stress from that dysfunction. Talking to other managers who deal less with the public will not reduce phone calls and complaints–management actually needs to listen to what the public is saying, and who hears it. Hierarchical staffing may be the standard, but being paid more than the entry staff does not mean that the entry staff should be ignored.

Bringing in new people to fix mundane problems ends up creating more problems in the end. Management should actually listen to the people already hired and discuss how processes can be changed and more efficient. There are endless simple fixes which could create all the difference in the world to constituents, and it is possible for management to make those fixes happen.  The only challenge in public government deciding whether to keep management who refuses to adapt to a changing society.

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