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September 07, 2005

Managing Bureaucrats


Rule Number One:

Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no.

Morton Blackwell, founder of The Leadership Institute, wrote The Laws of the Public Policy Process that has 45 such pithy points.

They are helpful to anyone dealing with the servants grinding out the sausage of law, policy, rule and reg. I keep a copy framed near my desk -- even when that desk was a part of the Office of the Governor.

Governments and most any very large organization have what my favorite political scientist would call ''multiple points of accountability.'

This is where any stakeholder or key influencer or television camera can veto an action. The Bureaucrat learns very quickly that vetoes will come fast and from all directions with lethal effect onto any movement by said Bureaucrat. There is no penalty for no decision. It is safer for a simple preemptive "No."


Remember our Bureaucrat is in a matrix (an organizational structure; not the movie -- although it may seem that way). He can get fired by a number of bosses. Or worse: to work past 5pm or on Saturday.

We have seen the inner workings of the Bureaucrat in his natural habitat: Hurricane Katrina.

I have found one method of confronting this breed in the public or private sector:


Instead try these three Bureaucrat workarounds:

1) Use a third party. Watch how our Congress does it: Closing military bases a hot potato(e)? Form a commission. Afraid of the abortion issue? Let the Supremes decide. There is always someone, somewhere who will sign off or lift off your project -- for a price. (Call me for rates.)

2) There are some Bureaucrats who can be inside champions for your project. Here's how you can identify this rare subset: Ask them if they like the child's game of 'Whack-a-Mole.' If the Bureaucrat brightens up, leans forward and smiles, start enlisting. If the weather turns cloudly, walk away. Think CIA and spy recruiting.

3) Or my favorite -- simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg forgiveness. At 4:55pm. Friday's are best.

The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can be managed by governor Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's CEO, if she would start using all three tactics. (Be sure to stay tuned for my posting on firing top executives.)


Obsidian Wings says terrorists are winning this war.

Chernkoff has Katrina details.

Michelle Malkin doesn't want another darn commission.

Captain Ed has reporting at New Orleans And Louisiana Blocking Aid To Refugees In City.

Volokh reports that money is seldom the problem.

WILLisms says News Orleans should be rebuilt with caveats.

Frank Patrick says we've turned a corner but,

What Next? -- I've been in a funk this week, not unlike mid-September, 2001, but probably more progressive as every bit of news out of New Orleans is more and more depressing. At least the aftermath of 9/11 seemed to be a coming together. There is a lot of that, but the big headlines and lead stories about shootings and lootings and bodies in the streets for days sounds more like a third world civil war than a modern US city.

Johanna Rothman has an outstanding risk analysis at
Managers and (Disaster) Planning.

TVNewster says bureaucracy got in the way in Aftermath.

Brendan Nyhan reports growing discontent with FEMA.

Mark in Mexico is unhappy that Bureaucrat Blanco still won't enforce evac order,

How many more will have to die before she gets off of her fat *ss and makes a decision? 50? 500? 5 from every disease on the list? What an incredibly stupid cow she must be.

Seth Godin has Bureaucracy = Death.

Update: 4 Oct 05 WunderKraut has view as civil servant from the other side.

Update: 31 Oct Triple Pundit has Carnival of the Capitalists.

Posted by charmaine at September 7, 2005 11:18 PM

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