Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Same Government That Brought You the Department of Education Brings You Raining Space Junk

Well if you are reading this today, chances are you didn't get hit in the head with a molten piece of space junk last night. Killed in front of your screaming and horrified family. No holes in your roof. So we got that going for us.

What exactly is the common theme between the Department of Education and space junk, Frankie? Luck is with you today. You are about to read one of the most intelligent and insightful pieces ever written about government. You are going to be light years ahead of your neighbors and peers with regard to why government is such a disaster. All of this because of all of that- education and space junk.

First I will give you my version (read opinion) about how people and government work. In the beginning, someone gets an idea based on some sort of need. They voice the idea publicly. At first blush, the idea sounds great. Before anybody has thought it through, people start nodding their heads, liking the idea, and expressing their satisfaction and approval. An informal consensus occurs. Somebody, somewhere in the room, has thought that same idea through and realizes that it sucks. But because that person represents the minority and because he does not want to get brow beaten and gang raped publicly by a group of people that have already decided the idea is great- he/she keeps their mouths shut.

I'm not kidding. This is precisely how it works. I participated in this madness at the local level. Then something weird and startling happened to me. It was 1999. I went through a university course on basic Project Management. That's when I realized that government- not only does not use project management- they aren't even smart enough to know why they should. We have a better chance of the U.S. Air Force wheeling out those dead extraterrestrials from the Roswell, N.M. crash than we have of seeing a *PERT chart for project management from the government.

In fact, I once mentioned to another department head that we needed to implement project management into a million dollar multi-jurisdictional dispatch center with no clear funding source. His words, and I quote him here were- "We don't need that shit." Nearly a decade later, the entities involved in that dispatch center are still fighting over how it is funded and how it is used.
In basic project management, the goals and the costs for any project are stated. There is the logical step by step process for completion (pert chart) and a critical path is established. All parties with standing are included and informed. Critical path pieces are components of the project that absolutely must be finished before the next task can begin. But my favorite part of project management, the one that is almost completely ignored by government, is a constant review to see that goals are being met.

So it goes something like this. We have a nation of dunderheads and underachievers. This is directly a result of a bunch of alcohol induced and pot smoking parents who blame the school system for their lazy kids. They demand better education. The idea gets traction. Jimmy Carter and a bunch of statists say, "Yes, it is government's fault. We will put together this giant money sucking bureaucracy that will improve the nation's educational system. We shall call it the D.O.E." There are no plans to ever review the D.O.E. for smart or attainable goals. To analyze whether it has actually produced or achieved anything closely justifying the 75 billion we waste on it each year. Nor are there any plans to review it and shut it down in the event it is a complete waste of money which of course, it currently is.

This is the same thought process that goes into launching shit into outer space. We launch satellites for all kinds of things. We like to spy on people, communicate, and watch golf tournaments and apparently- soccer all over the world. These are mostly good things, except soccer watching. However, this satellitic hardware has a finite life span. Eventually, like one of those new Chinese manufactured vacuums, satellites go kaput. This poses kind of a dilemma. Not only does all of this space junk whirling around uncontrolled in outer space pose kind of a menace- but sometimes it re-enters our atmosphere and comes crashing back to earth. We're ok with that mostly as long as the flaming space junk lands in the ocean or some third world country. We are told the chances of it hitting any of us are pretty slim. So we are mostly ok with that completion phase of our space junk projects.

The point I am trying to make is that people often don't think a project through from start to completion and then- afterward. Nor do they review the project at defined points to see whether or not it's achieving its stated goals. There is no plan then for ridding ourselves of a project that is simply under performing or not working. If those procedures had been planned for in the initial phases of project management- future politicians could simply state that project goals are not being met and we are shutting it down as called for in the original project management plan.

Or in our current case, we can have a big bi-partisan fight about the Department of Education. We can yell and scream, try to massage the numbers to suit whatever side of the argument we fall on, and most likely that giant waste of money...the D.O.E. will continue. When the usable lifespan of space junk is over with- at least it kind of self terminates and crashes to earth. It doesn't cost us any more money. That's not such a bad project management plan by government standards, just as long as it doesn't hit us in the head.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, Brian. The way the constitution organizes the Federal government we have to understand that it is nothing like a business. However, there are a multitude of business practices that could and should be applied to all levels of government. I would write a post on that subject but it would probably turn into a book.