Robin Neidorf FreePint Feedback - What's Special About Working in Government?
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Wednesday, 18th February 2015 Sign in to MyJinfo or create an account be able to star items Printable version Subscribe via RSS to get updates as soon as Blog items are added

By Robin Neidorf


Information managers in government agencies face challenges unique to their operating environment. A recent FreePint Community of Practice session discussed these bureaucratic challenges along with participants' experiences of overcoming or working within these constraints.


A recent Communities of Practice session specifically for information managers in government agencies and similar organisations offered participants an opportunity to discuss the challenges unique to their environment.

Not surprisingly, we spent much of the designated hour discussing the impact of bureaucracy on their ability to be strategic, agile and effective in their roles.

Bureaucratic Challenges 

When considering stakeholders and how to communicate effectively with them, bureaucracies present special challenges:

  • They are designed through regulations: even those who might want to streamline reporting structures are usually prevented from doing so
  • Operations are particularly siloed: accounting departments have specific accounting rules; IT folks abide by IT rules; libraries are regimented by library rules; innovation in one area has limited impact if it cannot be met with innovation in other areas
  • Make time for paperwork: the intent may be to create transparency in operations, but the effect is also to overload workers with time-consuming tasks.

Defeating the Burdens

Discussion participants shared perspectives on some of the changes they have made to address the extra burden of bureaucracy to improve outcomes.

One participant described a top-down reorganisation, designed to streamline operations and shorten project lifecycles. The transition took two years and required top-down leadership. While the organisation still faces bureaucracy in many of the agencies with which it works, it has succeeded in tightening up the layers of reporting that were dragging out projects and costing money.

Another participant is at a very early stage of considering approaches to more agile response and purchasing. In this case, the challenges are twofold:

  1. Purchasing guidelines are dictated by regulation, with the intent of protecting public funds; the library needs to find ways to work within those guidelines yet be more quickly responsive to user needs

  2. Purchasing of some resources puts demands on departments beyond the library - for example, databases requiring dedicated server installations require involvement from IT. For some big projects, delays are not a matter of budget but of required staffing in areas over which the library has no control.

FreePint's Next Step

Discussion participants commented on how helpful it is to share experiences with peers in similar environments. Sometimes the outcome is not a solution but a validation of the current situation, frustrations and all.

At the same time, FreePint was able to identify elements of our research into stakeholder communications that can be further developed to support information managers in bureaucratic environments. We are working directly with one Consulting-level customer on this very challenge, and further CoPs for information managers in government agencies will enable us to extrapolate from this work to better understand what might be more universally supportive.

Are you working in government services and have a question for us? We can help, please contact us.

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