5/08/2014

What Works and Who Doesn’t

A friend of mine--along with a few dozen past acquaintances, several relatives, and people I’ve met on the road—has wasted a lot of precious fresh air trying to convince me that some parts of government bureaucracies are staffed with hard working, conscientious, high-skilled workers. Every once in a while I see some evidence that might be true. Mostly, I experience proof that the counter-argument holds all of the cards. That does not mean, by the way, that I believe the mythical and magical free-market could do those jobs better. Honestly, I think groups of humans larger than a dozen are incapable of competence. What it does mean is that government, even local government, is mismanaged by the same class of moron who drove manufacturing out of the United States and who is now trying to squeeze the last drops of value out of this country before they jump ship and head off to whatever continent they will mangle next. Like corporations, the 1% are in no way loyal to or remotely committed to any particular country. They go where the easy money is.

Back in my manufacturing engineering days, I was a huge believer in independent quality inspection systems. In retail, that means the “secret-shopper” system, but only if flaws found are blamed where they belong, on management. The higher up the fault gets pushed, the better. For starters, it’s almost impossible to find a manager who can’t be replaced with a more effective person from the ranks of the managed. There probably isn’t more than one MisFortune 5,000 CEO whose job couldn’t be more effectively performed by practically any other employee in the company. Until you dip below the director-level of manager, that statistic pretty much holds true in the same proportion. The usual problem with secret-shoppers is that whatever system or performance fault is found is blamed on the person nearest the shopper at the moment of impact. Regardless of corporate “empowerment” bullshit, most system problems are the fault of management: including lazy or surly or incompetent employees, poor inventory management, ugly store displays, and dirty bathrooms.

State park systems are particularly well-suited to this kind of quality control system. Most states either employ or encourage non-state park employees for many of the park maintenance and management tasks. In New Mexico, for example, the state employees often do practically nothing while everything from managing the visitor centers to cleaning the camp grounds to designing the camp entertainment and recreational areas gets done by the hosts and volunteers. Adding a few unidentified roving secret-campers to the state’s park budget would be an incredibly cheap way to quickly identify the poorly performing camp managers and employees. To put some teeth in the system, it wouldn’t be hard to sell a “three strikes” program that would allow the state park bureaucracy to purge poor performing employees and management. These are all jobs with a huge backlog of qualified potential replacements for practically any state job, but state park jobs are probably the easiest of all jobs to fill.

In my opinion, the states that most need an aggressive state park quality control system are (in order of our poor experience from worst to best): Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, and New Mexico. My bet is that pretty much every state that has a park system is in need of quality control. Because the first experience many people have with a state is through the state parks, I think any state suffering from economic problems (Which aren’t?) should look hard at the performance of their park system. We met at least a dozen technical skilled, well-off couples on our travels through the southwest this past year who were looking for a new place to settle. Obviously, problems in the state parks wouldn’t be a total deal-breaker, but if you start off with a bad feeling about a place making a sale is an uphill battle from there on. I think this is a bigger deal than most state bureaucrats pretend.

No comments:

Post a Comment