Efficiency In Government: Speed or Precision?

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Henry Brown 5 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #178782

    “We need to encourage an engaged workforce that is decently paid and treated with respect and honor while delivering at whatever speed we want them to.”

    Robert Shea, formerly an OMB official under President George W. Bush, now with Grant Thornton, quoted in GovExec

    GovExec has an article out, “Making Government Faster,” in which experts argue the relative merits of increasing response time, and if that is the metric of efficiency, how to do it.



    Personally I am not sure that working faster is always the right thing to do – it seems that rushing creates its own share of mistakes.

    One expert, Robert Shea, points out that human capital and engagement are at the heart of the efficiency crisis, and I am inclined to agree. If you don’t care it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how fast you deliver.

    What do you think? What’s the right balance of speed, precision, and engagement – and how can we achieve it?

  • #178790

    Henry Brown

    If you put the RIGHT resources on the problem alot of things can happen, not the least of which is engagement which will naturally cause an increase in speed and precision.

    The GovExec article touts the FEMA change from Katrina to SandyMoore OK… I believe the reason for the change was during Katrina FEMA’s Disaster Recovery team probably consisted of 100 full time employees and maybe another 100 trained paid volunteers involved in disaster recovery. After the disaster (pun) intended of FEMA’s response to Katrina President Bush signed into Law the FEMA reform act in 2006 which addressed and apparently solved a significant number of problems. Not the least significant of the changes was the manning level of FEMA. As I now understand there are over 20 percent of the full time employees(~7500) working in the disaster recovery group

    When I arrived in New Orleans the Tuesday after the dikes broke I was one of the first arrivals of the 1000 or so volunteers who had anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours of training. Not all, but a significant portion of the training was to how to “protect” FEMA and DHS from any bad press. I was fortunate enough to be given a role (network/computer support in both the customer support group and the wharehousing group) that required very little additional training. But for those people who were providing inspections and confirming needs … I am surprised that the number of inspections was as high as 7500. Considering that there was probably 50 fully trained inspectors…. a significant amount of time in the first 3 weeks was training the other 2000 inspectors … And although I got a waiver to stay for an additional 30 days, for a total of 60 days, most of the volunteers were leaving after 30 days and same thing all over again.

    Another issue that I had with FEMA was the mobile device policy… Not sure that I saw more than 10 percent of the FEMA staff using mobile devices, be it smart-phones, tablets, or laptops. Granted this was 2005, but saw a significant number of volunteers(myself included) attempting to work with FEMA in the utilization of our own mobile devices only to be told you can’t use that smart phone to put pictures on our network or we can’t control what you put on your laptop or some other excuse…

    When the Alabama tornadoes in April 2011 struck, I being in the area affected and available went to the FEMA group on the ground in Madison AL and was told they were fully staffed with trained personal but I was encouraged to go over to the State group and volunteer(which I did and was accepted) Which meant that I was working beside the FEMA staff, the majority of which were full time employees. As far as inspections, they had dedicated trained inspectors(unlike Katrina where a majority of the inspectors were true volunteers and the Katrina inspectors were also dealing with customer service at the help centers) Although I didn’t see a lot of inspectors (my job was to provide network support for the State agency), there wasn’t a single inspector that I saw who did not have a smart phone AND a tablet/laptop to assist them in their inspections…

    The Govexec article does in fact bring to the table the effect of funding and I suspect that I agree with them, as I read the article, gone are the days when throwing money at the problem is the quickest and easiest solution not sure that it has ever been true but that is perhaps for another post…

  • #178788

    Many good points here but I am stuck on the one that sounded like “using disaster funds for propaganda purposes.”

    That aside – maybe if we thought more critically and were more engaged as well – we would avoid spending money and time on ill-conceived projects.

    Also if we thought more, maybe we would stop doing things the slow way out of habit. Avoiding change that can help.

    Simple example – project bulletin board where you check on your tasks rather than waiting for an email reminder.

    As for public affairs if we would simply be more transparent on the one hand and more clear about telling our story on the other, we could clear up a lot of needless confusion. (That includes telling both sides of the story and admitting mistakes.)

    Also more efficient would be to let our experts talk freely and share research without having to filter constantly through a central organizer of speech. While having clear policies and procedures for accountability so as not to release information in appropriatelly or undermine operations.

    (As always all opinions my own.)

  • #178786

    Mark Hammer

    If one is responding to Hurricane Katrina or Sandy, then speed is a very good thing, and something that I’m sure any public sector would pride itself in providing and be ashamed to obstruct. When it comes to drafting sensible, fair, and workable public policy, some patience and perspective is equally valuable. I find all too often that public policy can be more of a reactive response to isolated recent instance than the result of thoughtful reflection about an enduring problem. Hastily drafted policy is frequently poorly drafted policy.

    So, while “delivering at whatever speed we want them to” is a laudable goal, in principle, it still relies on those who do the “wanting” to have appropriate expectations about what that speed ought to be, and reach decisions about that speed in a reasonable manner.

  • #178784

    While everyone would agree that speed matters most in a crisis, it seems precision is important before the crisis so I think it is not so simple.

    The movie “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (out this weekend) was so excellent. Especially if you’re a government worker I would highly, highly recommend this movie. The back and forth between Kirk and Spock exactly illustrates the conflict. We were ALL clapping at the end.

    Mark, your point about appropriate expectations is well taken.

    Sometimes a movie can get a point across in a way that all the blog posts and comments in the world can’t.

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