What Change to the Civil Service System Is Really Needed?

By on May 18, 2011 8:17 AM in Human Resources with 0 Comments
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Updated: July 9, 2019 7:41 PM

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.

© 2020 Timothy J. Clark. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Timothy J. Clark.

About the Author

Timothy J. Clark is an exponent of a new standard of quality leadership and author of Success Through Quality, Support Guide for the Journey to Continuous Improvement.

He retired from the federal government with 35 years of service. He is a former enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. He retired at the rank of Colonel, with over 30 years of combined service in the U.S. Army, National Guard and Army Reserve. He is a strategic analyst with the American Center for Quality Leadership and is active in economic and community development in a small rural county in Indiana.