21 April 2008Unfortunately there are many similarities between our government and a large corporation. The following list examines just a few of these resemblances. Historically, big businesses and governments who fail to eradicate some of the below mentioned pitfalls have been taken over by much smaller, creative entities who hold the support of the people. But there needn't be another Revolution in the US. |
Americans just need to realize where the excesses in government are and either a) let private companies try to profit from them by allowing competition, or b) trim them back to something more manageable (as outlined in that incredible minimalist-almost-Zen doctrine, the US Constitution).
The larger a company becomes, the more procedures it implements. Big companies love procedure because it ushers in at least some superficial level of accountability. But of course, the more procedures the slower the communication time between employees and customers (or a government and its citizens). The slower the communication time, the larger the disconnect between the two groups becomes, so that eventually employees are no longer helping customers pursue common interests. Rather, procedures just become stumbling blocks and excuses to maintain the status quo.
Following these standard procedures (and taking detailed records of other people following the standard procedure) becomes just as important as executing one's job. "I was just following orders" is a common quote heard at many corporate offices, including the Capitol building. Since innovation and new ideas very rarely come about from following procedure, a corporation can create a perpetual cycle of bureaucracy which can easily lead them to be behind their competition in a matter of days.
In large corporations, each member of the staff serves a very specific and specialized function. The programmers program, the HR people hire and fire, the CPAs crunch numbers and the executives do whatever it is executives are supposed to do. There's no room for a "jack of all trades" employee who can see the big picture and streamline the work flow of the company or optimize employee well-being. Why? Because those people would suggest to other employees to stop following the same routine, which would be bad. Instead, large companies always suffer from the "this isn't my job, its his job" mentality, which results in blame and fingerprinting but no actual results. Sound familiar?
3. Misplaced Loyalty (Failure to Criticize)
There is a difference between being loyal to a company or government and being blindly loyal. Being loyal to a company simply means you buy their products over their competition because you feel that you're buying the brand of higher quality.
Being blindly loyal to a company means buying their products even if they're terrible and the competition is clearly superior. Take American cars in the 1980s and 1990s. There were many in this country who claimed to be great patriots for buying American. But I would say that the true patriot buys the best product available on the market, regardless of their country of origin. America was founded on the belief that the best ideas should be brought to the forefront. How is it patriotic to support a mediocre idea (or product) if the entire point of democracy and free market centers around rejecting what we don't like and buying what we do? In essence, buying an American car in the 80s or 90s (I know because I had one) was actually giving tacit permission to American car makers to continue producing crap automobiles. When it comes to cars, the most patriotic thing an American can do is buy foreign!
"We've been doing it this way for 50 years and we're successful, so there's no reason to change now." - Uncle Sam or any big corporate employee
It's easy to get caught in the trap of your own success and rest on your laurels. Innovating is much more difficult than filing the same TPS report over and over again every week, or doing the same thing the government has been doing for the past 50 years to try to solve the same old problems. If a company or a government is not constantly seeking to improve every single procedure or policy, it's practically dead and in desperate need of a transfusion of new ideas (which sometimes comes in the form of a swift kick in the pants, like market competition).
The problem is, it's too comfortable working for the United States of America. The government fires only about .02% of its employees every year. That's insanely low and much less than the nation's average. I mean, I can think of an entire DMV that probably needs some fresh blood. The difficulty is that most government agencies are not in direct competition with the market- if they were, efficiency would be a valued commodity. But since they're not, no measure exists in which to judge how well (say) a DMV operates. If private companies were allowed to perform DMV services like driver's tests and car registration, then we would actually have a benchmark to see just how well our state-run agencies are working.
5. Nepotism & Corruption
Large companies and large governments are at a higher risk for corruption and nepotism because unlike small companies where every employee is vital to its operation, in big companies there are many non mission-critical jobs which can be appointed to half-baked nephews or ethically bankrupted daughters. What's worse is that these employees are almost always permanent and often so incompetent it alienates the employees who actually do good work.
It's actually worse in government than in big business because in government, entrenched politicians have even less fear of losing their jobs due to corruption than in the corporate world, since corruption only requires a legislature to vote 'yay' or 'nay'.
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