This post is in memory of Ed Thompson. Ed was the two-time Mayor of Tomah, WI, and a former Gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin. When I was the Program Chair for the ASQ La Crosse-Winona Section, I invited Ed to speak to our section about quality and the government. Paul Borowski’s post on the subject brought back memories of that meeting and a story that Ed shared with us.
An employee of Tomah failed to do his work. In an ordinary situation, this may not be such a big deal, but in this case it was – as a result of the employee’s negligence, the city lost some funding that it needed. Ed fired the employee. The employee filed a complaint with the union, and was reinstated when Ed left office. Even though proper channels had been followed Ed was unable to fire an incompetent employee. In general, I do not have an issue with unions, but this anecdotal story is just a hint at some of the issues that rules that protect the status quo in government can create when exercised. There has to be a path forward that protects the rights of the indivdiduals while allowing the government the ability to manage employees appropriately. That does not appear to have been in place in Tomah at the time that Ed was the mayou.
On the other hand, I see a lot of work being done at the county and local level that is done quickly, efficiently, and sometimes on a shoe string. They may be using quality tools without even knowing it, because a lot of the methods and messages are things that just make sense.
As customers of our government, we can certainly ask for change, something the Occupy! movement is currently doing in the U.S. But can we drive this change? Realistically, if a change is going to be made, it needs to be owned and driven internally. It may need customer feedback, for example when looking to improve transactions with the customer, assessing the voice of the customer would be a valid input. The government needs to create an environment that drives, sustains, rewards and supports continuous improvement.