White House Portrait of Mitch Daniels

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“. . . an astonishing amount of the laws created today are not made by elected, and therefore recallable, representatives, but by unelected bureaucrats and judges.”

– Governor Mitch Daniels

In Keeping the Republic, Governor Mitch Daniels laments how unelected officials (bureaucrats) make policy and law.  I was once a bureaucrat and so was Governor Daniels – lest he forget his time at the OMB.  However, Governor Daniels has a view of a right way and a wrong way to be a bureaucrat . . . and so do I.

Much of Governor Daniel’s view has to do with having a favorable cost-benefit ratio and making sure a law didn’t already exist.  This seems reasonable, especially considering Governor Daniels staunch fiscal discipline that he has embraced as Governor of Indiana.

For me, the issue is the same I have written about in posts many times before.  The question becomes, “by what method?”  Setting our cites on costs alone – always increases costs.  The method to improve government requires method.

I have long been an advocate of the virtues of the Vanguard Method.  Getting knowledge is always the best first step to improving service organizations.  The problem is that it is a rarity to find executives or elected officials willing to get in the work to get knowledge.  Instead, they rely on reports, anecdotes and others to do this for them.  Bureaucrats are in a position to be in the work and make decisions based on knowledge.

This doesn’t mean elected officials should abdicate the responsibility, but the reality is they do.  Elected officials are too busy embracing political ideology, and creating new laws to be bothered with facts.  As a bureaucrat, I remember being more hand-cuffed by dumb laws than wanting to create new ones.  Plenty of opportunities to do what makes sense than to pass a law.

Bureaucrats need good systems to work in too.  What I have seen in government is the influence of ideology over evidence that dictates the design.  Each new government has a different ideology and the learning is skipped in favor of ideology.  Misguided laws and ideology make government systems run poorly.  Blindly running down the privatization path is as faulty as embracing government to do things.  Better design of government is in order, but that is not what we get.

Bureaucrats are stuck in systems that are poorly design.  Not by choice, but by laws and ideology that rule thinking.  Government management and workers have been marginalized.  If we are to fix government, we need everybody engaged and the bureaucrats are in the best position to see the problems and identify ways to fix them and help fix the systems they work in.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the Vanguard Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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