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What Change to the Civil Service System Is Really Needed?

by Timothy J. Clark |

Headlines abound with criticism of
civil servants and calls for reform.

We’re overpaid, underworked, can’t be
fired, working for agencies that are redundant or shouldn’t exist which leads
to demands that include freezing salaries, reducing the number of employees,
and reducing benefits.

This criticism and scrutiny comes at a time where our
nation faces another crossroad regarding the scope and size of government where
the contributions of knowledge and expertise from dedicated civil servants are
needed now more than ever.

Most people, including those in the
civil service, want to do the right thing. The poor performing organizations and
employees are the exception and not the rule. In addition to being civil servants,
we are also taxpayers that expect to be supported in providing effective and
efficient service on behalf of our fellow citizens.

Too often, the greatest barrier in
providing quality service can be working within a bureaucratic system that too
often rewards mediocrity, avoids accountability, is susceptible to corruption, minimizes
risk, encourages avoidance, rewards employees who serenely accept the status
quo and discourages those with a desire for providing better service at less
cost.  

Have you ever wondered why military
service members haven’t received the same level of scrutiny and criticism as
their civilian counterparts? I would contend reasons include the fact that the
public understands and appreciates the importance of their military service,
military service members understand their respective missions and individual
service members are respected for accepting the risks and sacrifices associated
with their commitment to support and defend the Constitution of the United
States against all enemies. They are well trained, led, educated, adequately compensated,
and share common values.

I believe that a new paradigm for
civilian civil service is needed. The system would need to incorporate the technologies
and better practices within the federal government, private industry, military,
state and local governments but also must incorporate improved methods in
executing current policies while developing more innovative approaches for
addressing the unique requirements of the federal civil service system.

Future
articles will identify, propose and solicit practical and proven approaches
that can be applied to support immediate and longer-term improvements.  A good first step is to start with a review of
the performance management framework that is incorporated within the Malcolm Baldrige National
Quality Award. Components of this framework include: Leadership, Strategic
planning, Customer focus, Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management,
Workforce focus, Operations focus and Results.

Perspectives and opinions presented are solely those of the author.

Author's Disclaimer: The views expressed in his articles are those of the author and not necessarily those of the U.S. government.

© 2014 Timothy J. Clark. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent of Timothy J. Clark.

About the Author

Timothy J. Clark

Timothy J. Clark is a federal employee with over 27 years of service in the federal civil service and is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. He served over four years on active duty since September 11, 2001. His book, Success through Quality, Support Guide for the Journey to Continuous Improvement was published by the America Society for Quality in 1999.

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