I’ve been struggling to articulate my objection to little strategic set pieces which appear before policy proposals. They typically take the salient challenges from conventional wisdom – for instance right now that we’re facing potential environmental catastrophe, sovereign debt crises and various other dangers – and then present the policy proposals they are promoting as particularly well suited to those problems.
Trouble is, the two things are disconnected. My usual reason for doing something – like for instance Windows on Workplaces – is not because it’s uniquely well suited to our particular circumstance but because in virtually any circumstance it would be a good idea. Indeed, though there are exceptions, if one is going to implement some policy, one generally wants some faith that the policy suits any circumstances, because circumstances change.
But just as we incessantly ‘theme’ conferences around the issue du jour, somehow there is this compulsion to present an idea as some response to its specific times.
Speaking of Windows on Workplaces, the US Government publishes detailed data on the way in which different US Government agencies perform on employee satisfaction surveys. BestPlacesToWork.org is an excellent initiative, but couldn’t happen in Australia at least right now, because our own Australian Public Service Commission doesn’t want to publish agency specific data.
Anyway, here’s how BestPlacesToWork tells us why its service matters
Today, America faces high unemployment, a growing federal budget deficit, war in Afghanistan, a major military engagement in Iraq, an aging population, long term-energy needs and a host of other daunting challenges. Now, more than ever, we need effective government and public servants who represent the best and brightest that our nation has to offer.
It also tells us that “The 2010 rankings are the fifth edition of this ongoing series, following the 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 versions.” and that
The rankings provide a mechanism to hold agency leaders accountable for the health of the organizations they run. They also offer a roadmap for better management and provide an early warning sign for agencies in trouble. Had Congress or government leaders paid attention to the 2003 Best Places survey, for example, they would have found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was last in the employee rankings. That was two years before FEMA’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina, but at the time, few noticed.
So if we need the site now “more than ever”, I guess we needed it less just before Hurricane Katrina hit. I guess those earlier editions should have been forwarded with words to the effect “Now, we need effective government and public servants who represent the best and brightest that our nation has to offer – but times may be coming when we will need it even more.”