Understanding Bureaucracy – “To achieve results, you’ve got to do something. If you do something, you’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are, by definition, a process violation.” Phil Windley [via Scripting News].
Man, that is so true. I worked for the government only once in my life: I went to clerk for a federal judge for two years after law school. The judge I worked for was a Type A (actually triple A) personality believed in getting things done. He couldn’t stand wasting time. If we law clerks weren’t busy in the chambers (a rare event) he would send us to the chambers of one of the magistrates to help out. Needless to say, he had little patience for the typical government routine.
He was a practical man and believed in doing things, not theorizing about them. He did have one theory that he told me about though. It was his theory of “how to succeed in government.” He said “to advance you can’t make a mistake, and the more you try to accomplish the greater the likelihood of making a mistake. Which is why eventually people in government learn to avoid trying to do things.”
I was shocked when I first read about Phil Windley’s resignation. I’ve never met the guy, but I have read his weblog and watched (from the sanctuary of my news aggregator) him try to use his position as Chief Information Officer of the State of Utah to give that state’s citizens better eGovernment. Looks like he’s a victim of the first principle of success in government: avoid, at all costs, trying something new to get better results. Or maybe I’ve overstated that. The first principle is probably “don’t try at all.”
I’m sad for the citizens of Utah, and –frankly– for citizens of government everywhere. People like Phil are to be lauded and given tickertape parades.[Ernie the Attorney]