If you work in government, more specifically if you are in a position of upper management in government or if you are a politician, this post will not likely set well with you.
Over the past 3 plus years since the economic downturn began in earnest, government organizations and other large bureaucracies have responded to the new economic reality in ways opposite to how small businesses reacted.
Some large bureaucracies may have have responded in a meaningful way and have reduced costs to match reduced revenues. Most have not. Many claim to have cut budgets when, in fact, they have only cut the amount of the increases in their budgets.
When sales started to drop for small businesses, most took remedial action. They cut costs. Many moved to smaller, less expensive quarters. They halted wage and benefit increases. Most actually cut wages and benefits where that was possible. Where it wasn’t, they cut employees to match the workflow. Almost all looked carefully at their structures and changed policies and procedures where such changes would reduce costs. They focussed on needs rather than wants and then made cuts.
What did most large bureaucracies, government agencies and political ‘leaders’ do? They redoubled their efforts to show that their services were needed more than ever. They raised rates/prices where they could. Some highly publicized the release of some workers, almost universally from the bottom of the food chain but they still increased the pay of those at the top – witness the COLAs that were continued almost everywhere in government and our Congress increasing its pay by 2.8% in 2009 (at the same time the employees in our organization took a 40% hit on wages and benefits).
Most small and medium sized businesses that have survived (since the crash at the end of 2007) have a few things in common, and in most cases, those things were in stark contrast to what government agencies did. They cut expenses to match revenues. They balanced their budgets. Any new programs were to consolidate and make their operations more efficient.
Why does anyone listen to government agencies who cry that they are underfunded? Government Agencies certainly don’t listen to companies that complain that sales are down and therefore they don’t want to pay their taxes….
Here’s a challenge. If you work for a government agency that has a smaller budget than it had in 2007, send me an email or comment to this post. I will investigate then post those exceptions to the rule with thanks and congratulations. I’m betting I don’t get more than a handful in spite of over 500 hits a day to this site. If I do, I will publicly apologize for painting most of government with a very broad brush. From what I see going on in Washington D.C. and in Salem, OR, I am convinced I will have no comments to this post.