There’s a seriously wondrous kicker to this story

This summer I got to see how Illinois government works from the inside when I accepted a high-level position at the governor’s office.

A lot of people have asked why I took the role, considering I have spent the bulk of my career railing against the government.

It came down to this: If I declined the job, I’d watch Illinois’ problems go unfixed and wonder if I could have made a difference. Or, I could enter the nucleus of state government and attempt to change the system from within.

The experience was eye-opening, but after six weeks I decided to leave the position. It was a dysfunctional workplace in a flailing administration. The bad I saw far outweighed any good I could do.

State government, lollygagging, inefficiency etc etc etc.

OK:

I was asked to bring four departments under one umbrella to streamline operations and increase effectiveness. Across these four departments, several jobs seemed duplicative or unnecessary, and there were some employees who weren’t productive.

I started by asking human resources for job descriptions and performance reviews for all staffers under my supervision, but was told none existed. Then I learned how it really worked.

Underperformers aren’t fired; they’re simply transferred to different positions, shuffled elsewhere on the payroll or tucked away at state agencies.

OK, yes, that’s how a union led bureaucracy works. Fine.

And the kicker?

Diana Sroka Rickert formerly worked for the libertarian-to-conservative Illinois Policy Institute and recently headed Gov. Bruce Rauner’s communications team.

There’re two in fact.

One, someone who writes this, ahem, well, was running a comms team? Secondly, that anyone vaguely libertarian or conservative thinks that a politician needs a comms team? Ain’t those two wondrous problems in and of themselves?

And yes, I’ve been paid to do political PR myself, incumbents don’t need it…..

21 thoughts on “There’s a seriously wondrous kicker to this story”

  1. How dense and defeatist must one be to write nonsense like this:

    The bad I saw far outweighed any good I could do.

    ?

  2. Ok,

    “It came down to this: If I declined the job, I’d watch Illinois’ problems go unfixed and wonder if I could have made a difference. Or, I could enter the nucleus of state government and attempt to change the system from within.”

    Cool, go for it.

    “I was asked to bring four departments under one umbrella to streamline operations and increase effectiveness.”

    Right, bit of a task, but, hey, you’re (possibly) on a mission, right?

    “The experience was eye-opening, but after six weeks I decided to leave the position.”

    Six, ah say Six fucking weeks?

    Fucking mouth-breathing, bottom feeding, bellend.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    A long winded way of saying “I thought Govt was broken, I didn’t think it could be that fucked”.

  4. So rather than stay and actually make changes that would improve things they bottled it and ran.

    OK we know where they stand if the subject of making changes ever comes up.

  5. I actually have some sympathy here. Why pursue a hiding to nothing and get pilloried in the process? Trade out of a loosing position as fast as you can whether that be in finance or where a position in a company is concerned. It’s easy to sit to one side and expect others to sweat blood on our behalf but these jobs transforming the public sector are awesomely difficult. You need a large public vote in your favour and serious political backing as the vested interests are in so deep.

    Look at Brexit.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Martin – “So rather than stay and actually make changes that would improve things they bottled it and ran.”

    Fairly soon people realise they cannot make changes and that by staying they are simply contributing to the problem.

    It usually takes longer than six weeks for enlightenment to occur though.

  7. SMFS – yes 6 weeks is not long enough to reduce staffing and implement changes that would allow future staffing reductions.

    By leaving they have made absolutely sure they cannot make any changes for the better.

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    Martin – “yes 6 weeks is not long enough to reduce staffing and implement changes that would allow future staffing reductions.”

    Six lifetimes is not long enough. Is there anywhere in the English speaking world that has seen reductions in civil service numbers?

    Even the Sainted Maggie ended up spending more on welfare and bureaucracy at the end of her reign than she did at the start.

  9. SMFS,

    In the last 12 years the MOD CS has gone from 120k to 55k headcount, which is a handy reduction as long as the less useful people were the ones persuaded to leave…

    But defence is a special case, uniquely expected to manage the same outputs with less money and people…

  10. Is there anywhere in the English speaking world that has seen reductions in civil service numbers?

    New Zealand.

    Several decades back the state sector was taken to with a blowtorch and culled massively. Some of that was selling off non-core business and some was cutting numbers in core departments.

    In the last decade or so numbers have fluctuated up and down in the public sector, but behind the increases in the private sector. http://www.ssc.govt.nz/node/9765

    The number in the state sector is going down steadily as a % of population. If you exclude people like nurses, teachers, university staff, power grid workers etc as not “civil service”, then you’ll find the decrease is quite marked even now.

  11. I’m more sympathetic. I’ve experienced that instant recognition that I’ve made a mistake in starting a job that was ‘not as advertised’ and pushing through with it, thinking that I could change things from within. Inevitably, it finished exactly as my gut told me it would despite by best efforts.

  12. How dense and defeatist must one be to write nonsense like this:

    To be fair, I can sympathise. If I were put in charge of my current lot, my first act would be to get hold of Mr Ecks and ask him how much he wanted for a year’s work.

  13. “It was appalling to see how self-absorbed so many staffers and former staffers were. Here they are in a state government that is crumbling — heck, in a building that is literally falling apart — yet at the end of the day what they care about the most is themselves.”

    You’re a libertarian and you didn’t know this before you went in?

    Two problems I suggest here: one is that communications is not an ‘organisation’ function. It’s a bit outside rather than integrated with everything else. Secondly, power skirts have no game.

    The worst places I ever worked for bureaucracy weren’t government. They were a private non profit and a huge private company. That non profit had the same problems. I remember we requested a modem once. It took 6weeks to get it, it was less good than a retail one, and cost double. And what I saw was that people who got things done did so by persistence and cheating. You break rules that only lead to a slap on the wrist. You find holes in the rules. You find ways to buy X with budget Y that you have plenty of access to. At that large company, someone went on a training course that included some software licenses. You try and build up the ‘internal exit’ – outsourcing to suppliers so that you avoid the rules.

    Power skirts don’t pull this stuff. They follow the rules…

  14. As an aside, Dominic Cummings (mad as a box of frogs, but very bright) documented his experience in this matter here:-

    The Hollow Men II

    “…the DfE’s lifts were knackered from the start and still are. There were dozens of attempts to have them fixed. All failed. At one point the Permanent Secretary himself took on the task of fixing the lifts, so infuriated had he become. He retired licking his wounds. ‘It’s impossible, impossible!’ It turned out that fixing an appointment is much easier than fixing a lift.

    Given this failure over four years (and counting), people should reflect on the wisdom of constantly demanding ‘the DfE must do X to solve Y’. One of the most interesting psychological aspects of Whitehall is that their inability to fix their own lifts in no way dents their confidence in advocating that they manage some incredibly complicated process. If one says, ‘given we’ve failed to fix the bloody lift in four years, maybe we should leave X alone’, they tend to look either mystified or as if you have made a particularly bad taste joke.”

    Well worth a read,

  15. Anyway, one thing resonates above all in that interesting blog post:

    the HR system made it impossible to recruit the right people

  16. There are companies that make lifts and almost all of them have teams of guys (yes, guys) that can and do repair them. Most decent firms make a large share of their profits out of the maintenance contracts where they promise to mend their lifts if they break down for a “modest” annual fee. The better the original lift and, more importantly, the better the maintenance team, the lower the cost of keeping them working – with the side-effect that the staff are inconvenienced less often by the failures – but Labour-controlled inner London Council estates are plagued by non-working lifts. I just cannot remember being forced to use the stairs in the City of London (although I reckon it must have happened once 30-odd years ago when I used to distribute leaflets several times a year in a residential area with 50-odd lifts most of which had no back-up).
    Any organisation that cannot get the lifts fixed is not fit for purpose.

  17. @Mr Frost, October 9, 2017 at 5:57 am

    I’m more sympathetic. I’ve experienced that instant recognition that I’ve made a mistake in starting a job that was ‘not as advertised’ and pushing through with it, thinking that I could change things from within. Inevitably, it finished exactly as my gut told me it would despite by best efforts.

    Same here, except I resigned (iirc after 3 weeks) from Bad Co as soon as Good Co HR confirmed (with salary, perks, start date) a job I’d been offered by local office regional manager.

    Long story, but I’d been employed by IT Director to implement change. My manageress was BFF of HR manageress. Cuntess & HR insisted I worked notice.

    Revenge was sweet – comp. car with free petrol: wound mileometer forward (~250miles/day) & sold discounted petrol to family, friends & friends of friends plus ~ 80 gallons stored for my future use. Coincidentally, cuntess’s car was stolen during notice period.

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