I plan to do a series of posts on public administration and the troublesome trend in government to totally ignore issues of public management. With the 9/11 and Katrina experiences, we tragically have more than enough lessons to demonstrate the problems.
Today the Washington Post reports that the Federal government seems to be taking its role seriously:
Government Prepares for Next Big Disaster
...In the wake of congressional hearings that exposed the breathtaking failures of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration is retooling its disaster plan to react more quickly to the next catastrophe...
Michael Brown, now the ex-chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, became the public face of Katrina's failure. But the administration is reviewing how other leaders also failed last August to execute a playbook approved just eight months earlier to handle such a disaster.
For example, Brown's boss - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff - did not invoke special powers in the National Response Plan that would have rushed federal aid to New Orleans when state and local officials said they were swamped.
All this while Newsday seems to rehabilitate disgraced FEMA Director Michael Brown:
On Sept. 15, 2003, one of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's deputies lobbed a bureaucratic hand grenade across his desk. The memo by the new department's undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response told Ridge that his reorganization plan would cripple America's ability to respond to disasters.
The memo involved turf: Ridge had decided to move some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's preparedness functions to another office less than one-fifteenth its size. The memo warned the shift would result in "an ineffective and uncoordinated response" to a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
The memo's author was Michael Brown, who was FEMA's director as well as a Department of Homeland Security undersecretary. Two years later, Brown would lose both titles after Hurricane Katrina, when his prophecies came true.
For those who want to join this search for competency in government, the National Response Plan can be found at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) site:
The National Response Plan establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. The plan incorporates best practices and procedures from incident management disciplines—homeland security, emergency management, law enforcement, firefighting, public works, public health, responder and recovery worker health and safety, emergency medical services, and the private sector—and integrates them into a unified structure.
Also of use for this discussion is the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Official Government Edition:
The Commission’s Final Report provides a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. It also includes recommendations designed to guard against future attacks. Below you will find the official Government edition of the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (emphasis added)
As an introduction to the problem, let's look at two questions that are posed in most Public Administration classes (These are just as applicable in the private sector.):
Question One: What is the single most important thing a leader can do to motivate the workforce?
Hint: W. Edwards Deming's point number ten is, "Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workplace."
Question two: In survey after survey of both workers and managers, what is the greatest impediment to making change and building teamwork?
Sorry, no hints. Answers to come in the next installment.