Friday, February 18, 2011

Evaluating Bureaucrats

A checklist when reviewing the performance of people who play bureaucratic games:
  • Partial release of information.
  • Delayed responses to requests.
  • Creative misinterpretations of clear instructions.
  • Playing the victim.
  • Passing the buck.
  • Losing documents.
  • Over-coordination.
  • No coordination.
  • Overly cozy relationships with interest groups.
  • Favoring turf over mission.
  • Failing to surface fatal flaws.
  • Overstating obstacles.
  • Misconstruing legal opinions.
  • Leaking information to opponents.
  • Missing important meetings.
  • Paralysis by analysis.
  • Overloading the decision maker with trivia.
  • Making highly selective interpretations of responsibilities.
  • Spending wildly toward the end of the fiscal year.
  • Placing regulatory compliance far above customer service.


robert said...

Had me until your last bullet. I think I understand where you are going, but you can't break the law in the name of customer service. Sure, there may be extreme exceptions, but as a lawyer who is trying to deal with the DFA, and evolving privacy law, the law is often at odds with customer service, and you have to comply or risk your business.

Michael Wade said...


I strongly agree that obeying the law should be a given. I'm referring to the difference that James Q. Wilson found in his study on bureaucracy when he noticed that the Department of Motor Vehicles and McDonald's each have large amounts of laws, policies, and regulations to follow, but McDonald's is highly customer-centric and the DMV is more interested in following its regulations. I've noticed in working with some state agencies that once a rule can be cited to block an action, no further inquiry into assisting the customer is made. Alternatives are not explored. There is often a "can't do and won't seriously try" attitude that gives up much earlier than a non-bureaucratic culture.