Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Misperceptions are Often Impossible to Change

It seems that the general perception held by the news media, newspapers (the ones still in business), coworkers, neighbors, and so on, is that everyone who works in city and state government is useless. Every single person. They are completely incompetent and of no value. I find if extremely difficult to find many examples to the contrary.

Yet the evidence I see and experience as a consultant working within one of several municipal IT environments does not at all agree with that.

It's really about generalizations. Most people make quick judgements and refuse to consider their own myopathy. Service was bad on a particular visit to a fast food or coffee shop, and likely they will repeat ad nauseum that the entire franchise, from corporate down to each and every local outlet, is worthless. They are all bad.

This is the same dangerously ignorant mindset that decides all blacks are bad because one or two black people treated them poorly, or Jews, or hispanics, Asians, women, or men, or caucasians, or short or tall (yes, everyone can be prejudiced).

When you turn that logic around and tell them that their employer sucks because they have one bonehead on their staff, they don't usually take it so well. People love to dish out judgement, but freak out when they are judged, especially when falsely judged. After all, it is impossible that they could dish out a false judgement. Human nature is indeed a fucking mess. Utopia is an impossible myth. But whatever, back to my angst-ridden diatribe...

Nobody wants their taxes increased. Nobody wants fees added. Not even when the backend costs (materials, services, logistics) are always creeping upward. And forget paying anyone enough to entice quality talent to do the work. Ultimately, everyone wants a free lunch and a gourmet lunch at that.

The word is IGNORANT

Is there waste and ineptitude in municipal tax spending? Sure. Is your company impervious to similar failures and oversight? Of course it is, because you work for Perfection LLC (shit, that's probably trademarked. Oh well)

The inequitable aspect is that municipalities keep their laundry out on the line in full view. Businesses do not. Even publicly traded companies do not expose their inner workings to the same extent government does. It's written in the laws. News media loves to explore the systemic and isolated failures of municipalities because it's easy prey. They rarely poke at the waste and fraud that exists in private businesses, even corporations or conglomerates. Why? Because they don't ever hear about those failures until government exposes them. Think Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and so on.

Need more examples of privatized failures? How about IBM and the State of Texas, or VITA and the DMV, or the never-ending FBI database upgrade project, or Haliburton. The list goes on and on. Does that mean I am implying one "side" is superior? No. It means both are vulnerable to failures and malevolence, but one side remains under the greater, and more immediate scrutiny, with an incessant emphasis on the negatives.

The point is that, like all aspects of life: stop generalizing. Focus your judgements on facts and specifics. As soon as you make broad, sweeping generalizations, you are then admitting laziness, ignorance and stupidity.

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