Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Bureaucrats' Trap

“[D]epartments are experimenting with regular ‘Dragons' Den’-type events with employees to find creative solutions to policy and operational challenges.”                                                          
-    Destination 2020 web site

“Good evening. I’m Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, and I’d like to welcome you to the first episode of our brand new show called Bureaucrats’ Trap. It’s a chance for federal public servants to participate in our wonderful new action plan called Destination 2020 by pitching their ideas to improve government service to a panel of topnotch bureaucrats.”
“First up is Fred Warner, a file clerk from Vancouver who has what he describes as a ‘sure-fire method’ to eliminate red tape and improve file processing in any government office.”
“Thanks, Mr. Clement. I’m really excited to be here tonight to tell you about my plan to revolutionize file handling in the public service. What’s that? Do I have my proper ID with me? Well, no. I didn’t think I’d need it for this. Security clearance? Again, I wasn’t aware I’d need to document that for a simple presentation.”
“Sorry about that, Fred, but you’ll understand that rules are rules and we can’t just have anyone appearing before our panel of experts. But hopefully our next presenter, Cindy Lawson, from Halifax has the proper accreditation so the bureaucrats can consider her new idea.”
“Yes I do, Mr. Clement, plus I’ve got everything in triplicate with extra copies for all the panelists.”
“Excellent, Cindy. Now please go ahead with your presentation.”
“As you can see on the screen in front of you, my plan for efficient file handling is called “first in – first out” or FIFO for short. It’s a revolutionary new method whereby the first file received in an office receives priority to ensure that it is the first one processed and finalized.”
“Thanks, Cindy, but as the bureaucrats have noted, that’s just not going to work. Your plan has a superficial appeal but, in essence, is just too simplistic. What about files requiring immediate priority for the minister? Or what about folios from favored constituents? And then there are those dockets that need to be temporarily or even permanently shelved for any number of good reasons that typically need not be publicly revealed. It’s a nice thought, Cindy, but I’m afraid it’s just a bit naïve. Which brings us to our next presenter - Gord Burroughs from Ottawa. Gord, what have you got for us tonight?”
“Well, Tony. May I call you Tony? No? OK. Well, Mr. Clement, I’ve got a plan that I know is going to help revamp and revitalize the entire federal public service. It’s something I call ‘adequate compensation and directions’ or ACAD for short. ACAD would provide a mechanism whereby an individual employee’s position would be properly classified and salary and bonuses would be set in accordance with established industry metrics.”
“Gord, the bureaucrats love your creative use of acronyms and the can-do spirit behind your proposal but ultimately they feel that it’s a no-go simply because it is far too specific. They would have preferred that you come up with a couple of innocuous acronyms without any detailed action plan. After all, obfuscation and deferral are the two key watchwords in any new grand government initiative. So long as it sounds good and it’s vague enough so no one can actually assess results, it’s a winner. Better luck next time.”

“Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of Bureaucrat’s Trap. Join us next week when we welcome three more workers with their simplistic and obvious suggestions that will likely not meet the bureaucrats’ minimum standards for viable policy implementation. And stay tuned for our new quiz show entitled Remember These? in which  workers and mandarins participate as contestants and try to recall anything meaningful about previous long-forgotten government action plans like La Relève, PS2000, GE Conversion, UCS (Universal Classification System) and VASE (Vision and Strategies Exercise). The winner gets to keep his or her job.” 

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