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Bureaucracy in the government sector

15 minute read
There is no doubt that working within the government sector system is not easy, Whereas the bureaucracy facing this sector is a situation that emerged more than a hundred years ago, Precisely in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, When he started thinking about what a central body needed to be able to design and deliver government services reliably and fairly within a large scale.
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Challenges posed by bureaucracy

There is no doubt that working within the government sector system is not easy, Whereas the bureaucracy facing this sector is a situation that emerged more than a hundred years ago, Precisely in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, When he started thinking about what a central body needed to be able to design and deliver government services reliably and fairly within a large scale.

While bureaucracy has positive aspects that we still aspire to preserve, such as efficiency, effectiveness, reliability and fairness in the delivery of services, However, other aspects of it have become obsolete and have a negative impact on productivity.

Traditional inflexible organizational structures that hinder effective communication are no longer desirable today. The same applies to the restricted distribution of responsibilities and expected results, As the challenges facing the official authorities do not distinguish between one department and another.

Besides, Rigid means of communication and co-operation that limit the capabilities of employees are no longer appropriate, Employees need to build trust among themselves to be able to interact and work together. It is in our common interests that we must work with a large number of stakeholders.

However, As a matter of fact We are faced with a system that has been designed and trained on a traditional bureaucratic basis, It is difficult to overcome due to the nature of the procedures, technical means and culture prevailing within the system.

On the same basis, Our operational approach limits our ability to learn and adapt. The figure below includes an attempt to identify the underlying obstacles to change and how they affect our behavior and culture.

Lack of time

One of the most important obstacles to change within the government sector is our constant feeling as employees of lack of time, I am aware that this idea contradicts the stereotype of government agencies that they are slow to carry out their work.

But the truth is that we, Within the current bureaucratic system, We work a lot but with few resources, We practice this work within legacy decision-making systems, and outdated technical means, Under constant media pressure on a daily basis, In the meantime, they are trying to meet the growing demand for services. This reality has created a purely operational work environment, Where it focuses on accomplishing and addressing daily challenges, Rather than promoting opportunities for learning and reflection.

Customer service teams are confronted, They are "bureaucrats who work directly with the public" who seek to convey government policies to individuals of the same degree of restriction. These staff members are constantly faced with changing cost-cutting procedures and structural changes. In addition to the social and economic environment, which increasingly relies on government agencies to bridge the gap in social life standards.

Public service staff are doing their best to try to meet the current demand, They rarely have the time they can invest in learning and behaviour change. For them, it has become a luxury.

There is no doubt that changing behaviors and the way of working requires sufficient personal and time space. This is not available or important within our operating model.

In addition to time constraints, with great impact, There are three other limitations that limit our ability to change: They are:

  • Knowledge Economy
  • Avoid risks
  • Subjective weaknesses of employees

Knowledge Economy

The bureaucratic situation is designed primarily to create an institutional structure that allows specialized technicians to perform the work they excel in, frequently, continuously and widely. Governments have embraced this fact and promoted the growth of bureaucracy as the tool with the greatest influence. It is the source of strength and authority that provides answers to all questions.

This logic in itself is challenging.

Where the current reality of our work environment requires us to be in the learners rather than in the provider of answers, It requires us to be humble, listen and cooperate with the individuals concerned, This is to appreciate the importance of diversity of perspectives and the fact that there is no single right solution to complex challenges.

As for our current operating model, It requires the opposite, We have to have the information and answers to predict the future, develop a strategy, or provide the minister with this information and answers. In other words, We hold on to what we have and place more value on knowledge than learning.

Thus, We ignore the importance of our networks, insights, evidence and learning resources, Either because of the subjective weaknesses in our personalities sometimes that make us feel stronger than others because of the monopoly of knowledge that we practice, Or simply, Other times, Because we are too busy to allow us to give space for reflection to identify other stakeholders who might benefit from sharing information.

Apart from this logic, We usually tend to collect and hide information rather than share it, however, When we do not share our knowledge and lessons learned with others, We waste an opportunity to develop our thinking by getting the opinions of our colleagues on it, Not to mention exchanging them with external stakeholders.

It means the knowledge economy, in which knowledge constitutes a currency in circulation or retention, that certain skills such as curiosity, learning, listening and cooperation will not be valuable, They are essential skills for a workforce that operates within a complex environment with several stakeholders to solve important challenges.

Avoid risks

We often talk about the reluctance of governments to take risks. Although this dialogue is rarely productive, In this talk, we focus on the idea of "fear of failure", And how does this idea hinder us from taking the risks that need to be taken? We also focus on the fear of government workers taking risks for fear of being punished.

What should be discussed and discussed is not related to the risks associated with specific innovative experiments or projects, It's about the way our systems work and the way our culture is formed. It eliminates all potential risks at every step of decision-making and joint action.

We work within an organizational structure in which decisions are made at all levels, It involves training staff to receive orders from officials in senior positions and give them to staff working under their supervision in a way that they understand. Conversely, We approach the products of these employees from the perspective of the requirements of our managers when they are raised to management.

and in organizational structures that impede mutual communication and work, Teams monitor and organize themselves, Try to carry out what they think are the wishes of managers. Conversely, Management directives diminish as they pass through layers of middle management that reduce risk within these directives, Along the organizational structure down to the employees.

As a result, The content up, Whether public service staff or senior leadership officials, Merely a vicious directive remains the result of the process of avoiding and deconstructing risks.

As a result, The small interactions involved in formal systems of work reduce the opportunities for change. Whether for leadership initiatives or visions and ideas provided by public service staff, Its existence eliminates any opportunity for active discussion and cooperation.

Subjective weaknesses of employees

Of course, No system can be changed unless the behavior of the individuals working in it changes; Behavior change is not easy; although the environment can help change behavior, Ultimately, however, it is the result of individual effort for each person. In order for the individual to learn and adopt new means of carrying out his work, It must have the confidence, space, resources and support to do so.

As mentioned, Our system, with its lack of time and focus on knowing the correct answer and processing knowledge by transferring it along organizational structures, does not encourage a sense of psychological security. This is of great importance for the learning process. This system has created an environment that always puts employees in a "confrontation or flight" mode. They try to make the right risk management decisions according to tight timelines and unrealistic expectations of getting the work done.

In the absence of long-term interventions designed with precision and precision, We cannot expect employees within this environment to have the ability and confidence to prioritize themselves, They make time and personal space for learning, They foster a culture of learning among employees under their supervision and maintain effective channels of communication with their colleagues and managers, This is a challenge for bureaucracy at every level.


This article was written by Sam Hannah Rankin on December 5, 2019. The original article was published on the Indigenous platform.

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