Democracy As Myth


     Each of us is aware that change is everywhere we look. No segment of society is
exempt. We as the public are dealing with the advent of continuous and ever
increasing change. Change in technology, change in resource availability, change
in national demographics, change in workforce diversity, change in simply every
facet of the organizational environment and context in which public institutions
must operate. Change, as the saying goes, has truly become the only constant.

The challenge for organizations is whether they can become flexible enough, fast
enough. And will they do it on terms set by the organizational culture, and then
adapt and succeed in the face of it or will they challenge the status quo and
attempt to transform the prevailing culture. What follows is the story of a
public organization, which is trying to change the context under which it
performs rather than be changed by that context. In the realm of Philosophy, as

Erasmus of Rotterdam, the first truly great humanist of the modern age once
said, "The intent suffices in a great design". Erasmus, no doubt was
right. However, beyond simple intent, or to phrase it in the current vernacular,
vision, action is required to bring the vision to life. In any age, there are
those individuals willing to challenge the status quo, whether it is in the
field of politics, science, business, or public administration. If these
individuals are to enjoy a measure of success, they must be willing to take an
inordinate amount of risk and withstand criticism, indifference and cynicism
from every quarter. Most importantly, they must have the capacity to envision a
great design and then transform that vision into action. A skeptic would find
little or no relationship between philosophy and the modern practice of the
public. A purist would probably go further and find offensive the very idea of
comparing these two seemingly opposed disciplines. One, grounded in the
metaphysical pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and the other, a pragmatic
and practical effort to conduct the public's business, appear to be at opposite
ends of an intellectual continuum. Closer examination reveals that both
disciplines share similar characteristics and both pursue parallel aims.

Philosophy and public administration seek to understand human motivation,
philosophy for the sake of pure knowledge, and public administration to harness
this understanding to practical ends. Human apprehension and resistance to
change is but one aspect of this understanding that is shared by both
disciplines. The idea of a flatter, more horizontal organization, one with a
minimum number of organizational layers separating the front line employees from
senior management is by no means new. Organizations, if one can call them that,
in the early years of the industrial revolution consistently reflected an
absolute minimum number of layers. Indeed, a face to face relationship often
existed between ownership or management and the employee or worker. As methods
of production grew increasingly complex and the principles of scientific
management were applied, more and more layers of organizational structure were
created. Organizations being ongoing entities, these layers tended to become
permanent features of the organizational landscape, often well beyond the time
where they’re original intent and usefulness has become obsolete. The private
as well as the public sectors has found that the pressures of operating
successful enterprises in an ever-changing competitive world, demand new
management approaches. A realization has emerged that a principal impediment to
the rapid response to a changing environment is organizational structure.

Cultures Slowly at first, and with increasing intensity as the weeks went by, a
document that was to serve as an organizational blueprint began to take shape.

Five propositions were to serve as the guiding principles: ? We will
treat all human beings with respect and dignity. ? Sharing is not a
weakness. ? No one will lose compensation. ? No one will lose his
or her job. ? A high priority will be given to training employees in new
skills. The organization, which was to emerge, was to strive to become
boundaryless, free from the confines of the hierarchical past, and organized
around processes rather than functions. We desired to become a
customer-oriented, fast, focused, flexible, friendly and fun organization. But
here again the government felt as though they need to step in. We carefully
blended concepts from a diverse variety of management thinkers. As we met in
community meetings, every idea and suggestion that complemented our vision of
the future organization was documented on video and considered. If we valued the people as assets, then we had to come to respect them. Our habits and
organizational routines stripped people of initiative and pride. People
frequently did "leave their brains in the parking lot" as a way of
coping with the nature of the anything. They did it because the message we sent
through all of our command and control structures, most notably, that people
shouldn't do anymore than what the job description said. And we reinforced this
with compensation systems that rewarded this behavior. We had to set these human
resources free. The people of the U.S. needed to feel that they had a right to
exercise the freedom to think and the freedom to act. We would work very hard to
demonstrate we were credible on this point. Until we could free all of our
assets and apply them to the services we render, it was hopeless to believe that
our customer focus could be evident. Individually, we hope to achieve meaningful
and lasting contributions. To do this, we must first look inward and objectively
determine what our strengths and weaknesses are. Ideally, we should be able to
use the benefits of the former to slowly erode the drawbacks of the latter.

Persistence and patience, coupled with the use of character, should allow us to
achieve this end. Organizations, however, rely on the interdependent actions of
the individuals that comprise it. Therefore, if these individuals hope to enact
any significant changes they must first ensure that there is a commonality of
purpose, a shared vision. Importantly, this vision must be embraced by and apply
to each and every one of the members. In this fashion, interdependence and
commonality of purpose can be achieved. Principles Governments have found that
they can legislate laws that define what is acceptable and what is not just as
proven by Alexis de Tocqueville. This definition of acceptability is accompanied
with a corresponding punishment. Governments draft, approve and enforce laws.

They cannot, however, hope to legislate morals or morality. They have tried, and
they have failed. That laws cannot prevent human beings from killing each
another is not tragic. It is only one's conscience, based on the moral
principles under which we were raised, that prevent us from breaking the law.

The laws of the land say we must be punished, but the same laws are powerless to
prevent us from killing does this sound just to you. Laws are the manifestation
of the moral principles we all learned as children. They are the shared
morality, the ethics, of a nation. We felt the need to create a code of ethics
based on simple common sense principles derived from a general consensus. This
was of paramount importance in our quest. To that end, we adopted our
foundational principles. We choose to define empowerment, as the freedom to
think and the freedom to act, with the appropriate knowledge of the
responsibilities linked with the exercise of power. The first principle, to
treat each other with respect and dignity, was embraced by all as the most
important guiding principle. The second, that sharing is not a weakness,
required a huge shift in perception. To view sharing as strength, rather than as
a weakness, becomes very important in the context of the chaos of large-scale
change. Without these principles, we could not proceed to fundamentally
re-invent ourselves. There are a number of desired talents that any organization
needs from its members in order to achieve excellence. Competence, becomes a de
facto assumption, for without it the attainment of our goals and objectives is
doomed to failure. However, competence, by itself, does not constitute the only
element in this formula. Character is the catalyst that binds all the diverse
organizational elements into a coherent whole. In fact, character is probably
considerably more desirable than competence. Most organizations believe that you
can teach skills to create or supplement competence, but you can not teach,
dictate, or prescribe character. The third essential talent is intuition. We
each have an inner voice which, when combined in the presence of character and
competence allows us to do great things. This is a sadly an often ignored
reality of leadership. Perhaps one day soon the people of today’s times will
start seeing what minority groups of the government would just prefer we not.

When will they realize? When will they see? How can they justify, Crippling me?

Was it not our right From the day we were born To stand up and fight For our
view of the norm They tell us they're trying To make us more pure They tell us
they're trying To give us the cure Come on you guys Up on Capitol Hill You're
way off the base In pushing this Bill Back off from our freedom Back off from
our space It's time that you realized, We're setting the pace.