Challenging What One Knows in Local Government

Every organization has a set of beliefs, or norms, that guide day-to-day interactions and processes. Organizational beliefs help to frame our decision-making and allow us to be consistent and efficient. In local government, there are a lot of them. Sometimes, however,  our beliefs become so ingrained that we use them as an excuse for not moving forward.  Our beliefs can  prevent us from making the change we know we need to make. You may not even be aware of the beliefs that are preventing you or your organization in local government from making the change that is screaming to be made.

Oftentimes, these inhibiting beliefs are expressed as what ‘everyone knows.’  If you’ve been around long enough and your organization  is bureaucratic in any way (what  local government organization isn’t bureaucratic?), you’ve probably heard a few.

Here are some beliefs that I’ve heard when it comes to working in Local Government:

‘Everyone knows’ that’¦
· You can’t fire government employees.
· Most government jobs can’t be measured.
· Enterprise fund departments can do whatever they want because they  make money.
· The Police Department gets whatever they want.
· The public ‘loves’ the Fire department.
· Performance evaluations are meaningless.
· The Legal Department will say ‘no.’

You can probably come up with your own list of ‘everyone knows’ for your community and local government organization. Logically and realistically, we know that these  assumptions are inaccurate. Anyone of them can and has been proven false in government agencies across the country. Yet, perceptions and preconceived ideas  persist.

We are all being challenged to reinvent how public services are being delivered. Our traditional structures, approaches, and models are not sustainable as we move into the future. The shifts we are facing beg the question:   ‘What beliefs prevent us from moving forward?’

As you begin to redefine your organization and chart the future, ask yourself, ‘what is it that ‘˜everyone knows’ and how are those beliefs impeding our progress?’



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