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Monday, March 8, 2010

FLATTEN GOVERNMENT

For the last six months I've been watching the development of a new family-style restaurant in our area. This is not a new building or anything requiring major modifications to the existing structure. In fact, other restaurants operated in this same facility in the past. It has plenty of table space, an ample kitchen, and good bathrooms. Actually, it is rather modern in design. The signs are up, and when you look inside, it appears everything is ready to go. Yet, the restaurant remains empty month after month. As it turns out, the problem resides in the county and state agencies who are dragging their feet in performing the necessary inspections and assessing the impact fees; inspections that should be rather simple to perform, yet cannot seem to be completed. I cannot fathom this. It is my understanding that the owner doesn't lack the necessary funds to pay for the permits and fees, and the restaurant looks ready to go, yet the government seems unwilling to let them open their doors. This leads me to believe that I am witnessing a business suffering from a bureaucratic government with a bad case of indifference.

I happen to reside in one of the most densely populated counties in Florida which has been growing over the last two decades at a rate of approximately 20%. This means we have a rather large budget supporting numerous county agencies whose mission, in theory, is to support the local residents and businesses. Obviously, their efforts should encourage business which would, in turn, result in more revenue for the county. Not so here. Inspectors give the distinct impression they couldn't care less. Instead of working with local businesses to overcome their problems, they seem bent on closing them down any way they can. Last year, dozens of restaurants closed their doors in this county due to the slumping economy; now we have someone interested in opening one. Yet, government officials move lethargically to help the business open their doors.

The cause for all this should come as no surprise; the greater the organizational hierarchy, the more unproductive the entity becomes which means, in the context of government, an adverse effect on its constituents, namely business. Twenty-to-thirty years ago, when the government was smaller, county officials and employees seemed more amenable to helping companies, but as the county population grew (as well as the government in proportion to it), service seemed to decline. Normally, you would think a bigger organization involving more people and funding would be able to adequately service its customers. Interestingly, the opposite begins to occur when we create enormous bureaucracies. Corporate entities have known this for years and went through a period of flattening their organizational structures thereby forcing them to eliminate superfluous activities and focus attention on the essential duties and responsibilities of the business. Government needs to do likewise, not just at the local level, but at the state and federal levels as well.

We have long suspected there is considerable waste in government, but when it becomes glaringly apparent, as in the restaurant example, it is time to shake things up. It is one thing when corporations become bureaucratically ineffective (who must answer to shareholders), quite another when it is a government institution. After all, government is suppose to be a servant of the people, not the other way around. If this is true, government should be an expediter or champion of business, not an impediment.

Just remember, bigger is not always better; it does not innately make you more competent; in fact, it might make you more clumsy and ineffective. Therefore, our mantra shouldn't be "fatten government," but rather, "flatten government." Just be sure to add the "L."

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.