There Are More Than 5 Things That Bureaucrats Can Teach You

I wish the prevailing attitude towards government workers wasn’t so overwhelmingly superior. Inc. just ran a blog post about the five things entrepreneurs can learn from bureaucrats. And while we can give them credit for the bold assertion that the private sector can learn from government workers, I’m pretty sure that there are more things that the private sector could learn from their bureaucratic counterparts than the five things listed:

1. Take the Long View

2. Work to Live

3. Put processes over results (at least some times)

4. Put fairness first.

5. Sometimes good enough is, well, good enough.

My additions include:

  • Making money isn’t everything – contributing to the common good is pretty awesome too.
  • Thinking holistically: when your customer base is counted in the billions, you’d better think about second and third-order effects.
  • Manage your professional activities so that your career can stand the Washington Post test.

I’m sure there are a lot more… Please chime in with what’s right with the federal bureaucrats you know and what the private sector could learn from them.

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David Dejewski

After 20 years with Defense, I’m now a business owner myself. I’ve carried a “Money isn’t everything” attitude into my business. In fact, it’s part of my business plan.

I thought I’d see a lot more of greed and money-driven activities on this side of the fence. My truth is that the importance of money is a personal thing. If a person is greedy, it doesn’t much matter if they work for a Treasury pay check or they build a business that creates their pay check. They’re focused on the pay check, vs creating value.

It’s a fact that without money, no business (or government agency) survives. Employees need to get paid. There is an expense to creating anything of value. There has to be some left over to provide a good standard of living for all those involved with the business venture.

It is also a fact that the majority of entrepreneurs I know believe passionately in contributing to the common good. They just do so on their own terms.

I’ve also seen people who are nuts about gathering money – but they do so in order to give money to worthy “common good” projects. The more common good an entrepreneur does, the more money tend to flow in their direction. It’s what happens in a capitalist society. Money is often the reward for all the good one does.

I suppose a government employee who sleeps on the job (I’ve actually seen many of these) is just as selfish as an entrepreneur who chases the dollar for the sake of the dollar. Fortunately, I think both are a minority – at least they have been in my life.

To your question, I would say that entrepreneurs could use a little of the federal bureaucrat’s commitment to country and national pride. Most civil servants I know sincerely feel passionate about the future of America. They work for something much greater than themselves.

I work with many entrepreneurs who are too busy trying to survive to recognize their importance to the rest of the country – to the health of our economy. They struggle with day-to-day issues and forget that this country was built on the shoulders of some of the greatest entrepreneurs and private business owners this country has known: Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, William Penn, Bill Gates, Ray Crock, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney and many others.

Andrew Krzmarzick

I’d add: Solve society’s biggest problems. It’s tied to contributing to the common good, but it’s a way of stating it in the form of a challenge for those who feel bothered and emboldened by some of the issues that plague us.