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If you could change one thing about government...what would it be?

Serving as the new Public Manager liaison for Young Government Leaders, I was asked this question for a board member profile to appear in the next newsletter. Ironically, the next issue of The Public Manager magazine will address the topic "Transforming Bureaucratic Cultures," which was also the theme of their summer conference.

In order to select authors and topics that deal with issues that are important to you, I would like to pose two questions:

1. If you could wave a magic wand and change something about government, what would it be?

2. If you have seen this change happen in another agency, can you provide a specific example?

Your responses to these two questions will help to address not only the challenges but also provide some practical case studies/solutions that respond to them.

Thank you for your feedback!

Tags: government performance, leadership

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Reform Gen Y Recruitment. Create "Teach for America"-type program for govies. Create U.S. Public Service Academy.
Along with this, Government should begin working in earnest with universities to set up paths into government. I have a high school junior who is looking at college websites and I have noticed that many now promote active student engagement in the community and with government. These engagement programs range from those that are service focused to those working for active student/citizen participation in their government.
Yeah, was going to say, reform the hiring process. Also, pay for performance. City of Concord, CA is a good example, with incentives for managers based on annual performance reviews. But I don't know federal policies well, so I'm taking a shot in the dark based on San Francisco local gov. Paper here mentions Concord's program: It's really poor policy to have all promotions and pay linked to longevity and not performance. Means folks have to skip around to get ahead, or just leave.
I agree with the promotions. Even though I love where I work, and I love the people I work with, I am going to have to leave one day to move up. I don't want to leave, but at 42 I have to also look out for my future. I know it is this way in some civilian organizations, and if promotions were opened up willy/nilly everyone's brother in law would get a promotion, so someone needs to come up with a compromise.
I would like to see our hiring process less bogged down by political correctness and all the systems we've created to generate "equality." Too many of us, in the Forest Service at least, have lost jobs to unqualified candidats, simply because of Veterans' preference. Additionally, there are other burdensome mandates about diversity and so forth. Not to mention the way in which we must rate, rank, and review applications. It is utterly ridiculous. Also, the FS has a centralized HR system now, which is HORRID. The effect has been for position descriptions to become exceedingly generic, which then places an additional burden on our performance evaluations (more hoop jumping and less actual evaluation).

And don't get me started on Adriel's comment re: promotions based on longevity. I wouldn't say it's that way in the FS, but we've all seen several examples of "promoting the problem" to get rid of a poor performer.
Is HORRID the acronym for your system? :)
1. More stability with use of contractors and contractor workforces. Many contractors have the freedom and capabilities the government workforce does not.... yet, they are hired, switched, disposed of at whim..... I think it may be MORE possible to reform the government interaction with contractors (like me!) than to reform the whole government system....

2. I have not had the privelege of witnessing change for the better so much, BUT, I do think there are role models out there that the government would do well to consider adopting or at least understanding some of their practices.... Southwest Airlines is one example.... happy employees, financial stability amid turmoil, ....
I'd like to see some of the administrative processes (e.g. hiring, procurement) less "process-driven" and more "results-driven".

I recognize that there are good reasons that made sense to people for the horrendous hoops we have to go through to get anything accomplished in these areas. They help make sure our hiring and acquiring is done in a manner that is open, fair and transparent. But when you put all of the processes and controls together, instead of supporting us in our efforts to deliver value to the citizens they are creating significant barriers. We need a lot more flexibility.

I don't think this freedom should come without accountability. People need to be accountable for the hiring and acquiring decisions they make. If they use the flexibility to discriminate in hiring, or if corrupt acquisitions are found, then there should be significant consequences.
Current government managers seem to have developed risk aversion to such a level it has become boogey man in the room. We talk a lot about succession planning these days but with the current level of risk aversion in government do we want our next generation to have the same phobias as the last when it comes to change and risk. It would be nice to think that current generation of managers wants next generation to be more effective and efficient leaders in future, but sometimes I wonder if they want to succeed as long as we don't out shine their legacy.
It seems to me that a lot of the processes that are being discussed here are things that have built up over the years, slowly gathering more and more baggage as time has gone on. There are a lot of processes that I've seen at the local level - and I'm guilty of passing some along myself - that would benefit from having everyone involved sit down and start over. Gather requirements. Create a new business process from scratch. Get rid of duplicate, outdated, or needless steps. Streamline everything.

If I could wave a magic wand from my position as an insider in local government, I think that's what I'd do. I think I'll set that as a goal for myself - one process that I have control over, or that I can convince people to work with me on - let's review it and rebuild it from the ground up if we can.

If I could wave a wand from my outsider perspective of the federal government - I think it would be similar - clean out the garbage! Start with the tax system, or Social Security, or something else that impacts every single American, IMHO. Accomplish the same exact thing, if you must, but make it about 60 gazillion pages shorter and easier to navigate.
I would love to see a government culture in which it is OK to challenge the status quo about how things are done within the context of what the organization is trying to achieve, where new ideas and appropriate risk-taking are encouraged and failures are tolerated.
Thats the thing Rosas the upper level managers don't want to hear your ideas just agree with theirs. Upper management culture is such that they don't wanna take chances and don't want to hear what others have in mind.

The other thing I would change would be do away with the CFC. I give to who I want to give and if they arent on the CFC list then I am not considered participating. It seems like our forms are distributed to us practically filled out. The meetings the coordinators go to and the overall extra stuff the CFC intails distracts from the work of the people.


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