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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Corporate Culture vs. Government Culture

Where’s the accountability?

Published: Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 11:59

D uring the last year or so we’ve been subjected to automotive recalls and government mismanagement. There’s a distinct difference in how these incidents are handled. In the corporate world, people who have been responsible for misconduct or malfeasance are, in general, summarily fired. In government, people who have misled the public or who have made questionable decisions that have resulted in financial disaster for the agency or city government have either been retained or released with a sizable bonus!

Corporations have goals, strategic plans, and accountability to shareholders and customers. Government agencies rarely have goals, are operated by long-term employees who receive pay increases based on something other than performance, and operate with an array of elected officials whose purpose is to assure being voted in at the next election. Therein lies the difference—corporations strive to achieve high marks in financial performance, benchmark themselves against high industry standards, and operate with a sense of urgency; government entities, on the other hand, are devoid of high levels of customer service, have no need to worry about cash flow, and understand that job security is a given.

Of course, many government agencies, cities, and states do indeed focus on performance excellence, but we rarely hear about them. Throughout the years some government offices have availed themselves of benchmarking against the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria. Two such entities that have done so and have won the Baldrige Award themselves are the city of Irving, Texas, and the city of Coral Springs, Florida. These two quality-focused stalwarts are role models and as such, I would hope that other agencies would follow in their footsteps or at least use the Baldrige Criteria in their strategic planning.

I suspect that many quality professionals have experienced the lackadaisical attitude and lack of sound customer service in their own states. Heck, here in Lansing, Michigan, we have one of the few full-time legislative bodies in the nation. In fact, only nine states have a full-time legislature. Our politicians take off two weeks for deer hunting season and then lie dormant for the entire summer while they supposedly interact with constituents. It’s no wonder, then, that Michigan roads are the worst in the nation. Currently, our astute legislators were unable to formulate a solution to funding road repairs. To generate the required revenues, they have placed an issue on the May ballot that would raise the state sales tax to one of the highest in the nation.

Is there an answer to this lack of accountability? Unfortunately, until we elect people who understand that their role is to improve the quality of life for everyone, to operate within a budget, to having goals and a strong strategic planning process, and to hold their staff accountable for decisions, we will continue to operate in a quagmire with strong vestiges of malaise in many states.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.