I heard a story recently which echoed Bill’s point.

The bottom line: We should be putting government employees in direct contact with the customer (the public) as much as possible for a lot of good “business” reasons. (Vineet Nayar wrote a good book on these, “Employees First, Customers Second.)

Primary among them is that the interaction itself changes the equation: Awareness of their needs makes us better while awareness of our limitations helps them reframe requests and contribute ideas for improvement.

The more we hide away in our cubicles the further we are from the action — it is all about what they need and want — the system is to serve the people not the other way around.

Might help cut down on leadership/management analysis paralysis as well – citizen interactions yield metrics upon which decisions can “safely” be made.

A better image would be a positive side effect.