Fundamentally, I’ve found that in government there’s often a lot of noise — various extraneous factors, such as the fact that our people aren’t always the best people; and a lot of amplitude, insofar as the performance average in government agencies all to often is not a bell curve. That is, in too many agencies the modal average performance can often be quite low. That said, there are a number of problems plaguing government in general.
The root casues of the problem are threefold:
1. The ability of government to set and pursue a talent mangement strategy is often quite limited - agencies struggle to “build talent within the ranks” and certainly suffer from problems attendant to recruitment and marketing. Common refrains I hear are, “How do I judge talent? How do I set clear, measurable goals and expectations? In short, how does “performance government” translate into human resources policy, investment and practice?” Many of us are still at an early stage.
2. Unions and collective bargaining units create complexities in extending our strategy. This can be deconstructed as two basic issues: how do we create the right value proposition over time, for our employees? Again, not a lot of constructive thinking here and second, how do we set the right proposition in the workplace day to day. Do we truly understand what triggers employee engagement? Performance? Satisfaction? Many of our recent posts have been related to this — poor perceptions of leadership, comfort speaking up and perceptions related to how we tolerate poor performance create a drag on performance and reduce engagement and morale. We know this intellectually, but are we doing enough to improve it?
3. This is closely related to, but separate from, the problem with the complete imbalance in the control / empowerment set. Government doesn’t often get the belief system, forget about the dashboard, and struggles with balancing control and empowerment. Civil service rules were put in place to avoid the abuse of discretion, union rules were added to them, and you now have a system where risk aversion rules. Unfortunately, the detailed rules do everything to limit performance and practically nothing to really limit waste, fraud, and abuse.