Why Bureaucracies Are Inefficient

As I have worked for two government organizations I have first hand experience and testimony of the frustration and inefficiencies found within the bureaucratic structure found in virtually all government-funded programs and agencies. In a amazing book I’m currently reading, Good to Great, author Jim Collins provides an accurate insight as to why bureaucracies exist and why by nature, they fail as a model for success.

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline – a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives away the right people on the bus, which then increases the percentage of wrong people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people away, and so forth. … Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline. When you put these two complementary forces together – a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship – you get a magical alchemy of superior performance and sustained results.”

Obviously government programs and agencies serve a purpose. I don’t argue that. At the same time, however, it would be ignorant to ignore the the obvious waste and inefficiencies of the government. For this reason, it won’t be until I have confidence government agencies are running more like a business, that I will jump at the chance to give more of my tax money to the bureaucratic black hole that keeps public funds from effectively producing measurable results.

With over-lap, waste, a lack of accountability, burdensome and time consuming procedures, and employees more worried about defending their little “kingdom” than the service they actually provide the public, it’s no wonder Ronald Reagan was lead to say that the scariest words in the English language is, “I’m from the government, I’m here to help”. It is also why I had such high hopes to get successful businessman Mitt Romney in the White House to begin cleaning up the bureaucratic mess.

I have seen first hand virtually no accountability for successfully completing grant deliverables. It is generally frowned upon when grant-funded programs come in under budget and fail to spend all the money they were entrusted with. As long as the program meets the objectives and requirements of the grant, shouldn’t fiscal responsibility be rewarded and praised instead of looked down upon? Am I the only one who notices how backwards this is!? It would be fairly simple to implement an award program for managing government employees who come in under budget.

I feel the biggest problem is that innovative, entrepreneurial minded professionals…the type of people that like to work smart and efficiently, aren’t generally attracted to being a part of a bureaucratic organization that stifles their creativity and hinders their ability to achieve the outstanding results they are capable of…working along side a bunch of bozo’s who are perfectly fine with such an environment, so long as they get a decent paycheck with perks and benefits.

The most positive approach for change, as I see it, is two fold.

First, start communicating our frustration and disapproval the loudest way we can…through our votes. Start voting in representatives who promise not to raise taxes and envision a smaller government with more accountability. Critically analyze any piece of legislation which calls for more tax funds to ensure it is absolutely necessary and that there is accountability for the proper use of funds…which basically means voting down any tax increases. I suspect there already exists enough money in most (if not all) government agencies, they just need to start using funds efficiently.

Second, start instilling hope and excitement into future generations that they can make a positive influence in the world through honorable public service. Currently, public service is often viewed as the career choice for unethical and power-hungry people. We should begin teaching tomorrow’s workforce that they can be the ones to turn things around for the better and make a positive difference in efficiently providing outstanding performance for the public.

So next time you see me getting all flustered over taxes, now you know the personal experience and intellectual reasoning behind my frustration.

PS- As we are currently in the middle of a presidential election, I thought the video below is a worthy and relevant attachment to this post.

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5 Responses to Why Bureaucracies Are Inefficient

  1. garrettmyler says:

    You two anonymous people who are apparently familiar with me from my short time at the city don’t know me well enough to be aware that I have since been working over a year at another government agency, and assumed that my experiences at the City was the extent of my experience in government. But I think focusing on my experience, or lack thereof, is a needless distraction from an issue apparent by many both within, and outside the government.

  2. Anonymous says:

    intern for parks and rec… hmmm… you definitely have a great firsthand look at how the city govt works… i respect your opinion but working for the parks and rec dept as an intern wont give you a look at the tru govt…

  3. garrettmyler says:

    Also, let it be know I currently work for a government funded organization along side some of the most wonderful professionals I’ve ever met and love them dearly. I still feel that by the nature of the beast they are limited and stifled.I also tend to believe that the mission of economic development attracts a good crowd who have a better understanding of efficient business practices…but I’m obviously biased.

  4. garrettmyler says:

    To anonymous:While I’ve met a number of wonderful people that work in the government and made an extreme generalization to make my point, I still agree with Jim Collin’s statement (“bozo” refers to the incompetent “wrong people” he mentions). If you work in the government, and aren’t one of those bozos, you would be one of those I spoke so highly of who is trying to change the government for the better. In other words, only a bozo would take offense at my bozo statement.Instead of taking my comments personally and trying to insult me (don’t worry you didn’t)…I invite you to back up your frustration with a real intellectual rebuttal to prove my thoughts (as well as Jim Collins’) as wrong.

  5. Anonymous says:

    self-proclaimed intellectuals are not intellectuals at all… your thoughts are more obvious than intellectual…i wouldnt call people you worked with in the city govt bozo’s either… you were a temp… what qualifies you to say that mr almost full time employee who was fired from the city??? you dont know anything about how the city govt works… what makes you think you know anything about how a national govt would work??????????

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