On Friday, I attended training for Challenge.gov. Congrats to the GSA team and ChallengePost for a sexy, sleek platform for us govies to use easily and relatively headache-free. Unfortunately, I could have walked away very demoralized by that experience. First, it was a Friday afternoon and no coffee allowed in the computer lab. My head was already dragging before we began. Second, it was also about a bijillion degrees out and my 6 block walk, which is usually beautiful and pleasant seeing the White House and other landmarks, was brutal. Third, instead of being excited and happy for the awesome platform, I heard a lot of “can’t, won’t, don’t” from the bureaucrats.
So a little divergent story. I promise it is related. I went to a women’s college in Pittsburgh. We were big on reclaiming words or using words with pride. For instance, being a feminist is a huge, yucky no-no. Feminists hate men, burn their bras, and won’t cook. We reclaimed being feminists as being world ready women. We are smart, we have practical skills for work and life, and we are feminists. And while my husband does most of the cooking, I don’t hate it. He’s much better at it– you know, division of labor and productivity.
So getting back to bureaucrats and their “can’t, won’t, don’t” attitude. It is time for us, as bureaucrats, to reclaim our title. There was once a time when good enough for government work meant it was the highest standard of excellence. Now, there’s Sleepy Sally or Napping Ned just scraping by doing the bare minimum. And whenever someone has a good idea, Sally or Ned find every reason not to change.
“We don’t do it that way.”
“We can’t do that because of regulation/policy.”
“We just won’t do it.”
Don’t get stuck in that mindset. Policies, procedures, and regulations can be changed. Technology is easy to adapt, adopt, and use. People need a little boost to remember they are capable of good and great things. Reclaim that standard of excellence so when you say you work for the Federal government people cheer instead of snicker.
How do you plan on getting from can’t, won’t, don’t to can, will, and do and reclaiming the title of bureaucrat?