Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Reorganize

So Obama proposed reorganizing government last night.  But by focusing on duplicated functions he implies the sort of reorganization which takes some silos and puts the silos together under one roof.   For example, taking Rural Housing and putting it under HUD, or Forest Service and combining it with Interior.  That's the sort of reorganization FSA experienced in 1994, when parts of the old Farmers Home Administration were combined with ASCS.  I'm not sure the reorganization has been terribly successful; it wasn't successful quickly. We still have county office employees who are Federal and those who are not.  16 years of effort hasn't changed that.   And I suspect we still have IT employees in St. Louis and IT employees in Kansas City. And the IT applications may not have been as integrated as they might be, as were dreamed of in 1991 under Info Share.

I'd like to suggest a different model for reorganization, particularly for rural areas.  It's a model which will drive some FSA employees, particularly a certain CED, up the wall, but I think it's worth considering and testing.

Some assumptions:
  • The number of farms in agricultural areas continues to fall
  • The number of people in some rural areas continues to fall
  • Technology permits telework to be effective in some cases
  • Many people in rural areas are competent with modern technology, but some are not.
The new model office combines a lot of technological bells and whistles, with a set of "generalists", people who know enough about lots of  things to be able to serve as intermediaries with the true experts, either by consulting them remotely by messaging, and videoconferencing, or by putting the customer in touch with the expert. In some respects it operates as a "triage" center.  Its staff is trained enough to be able to refer cases too complex for them to handle, to hand hold for cases that can be handled remotely where the customer needs the assurance and the interpretation, and to take care of routine and simple cases.

The new model  field office works with the new model Federal agency, which tries to serve the public online, but using experts more locally based as intermediaries for those who aren't comfortable with technology.  So the new model Federal agency is doing lots of basic training of the personnel in the

So you set up the new model  field office and test it.  If it works, it's the field service center for all Federal government services and some new ones. (The new ones will aggravate people who might think I'm a socialist.)  So the new office would start by serving as a post office and a passport office (which some post offices do now). It would serve FSA programs, NRCS programs, Rural Development programs.  It would handle Social Security matters.  It would handle IRS matters.  It could serve as an interface for remote medicine.

That's my idea.

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