Where the Real Power Is

Jared Sandberg, author of the “Cubicle Culture” column in The Wall Street Journal, writes today about how purchasing agents, supply managers or any lower level manager in charge of a process that is elemental to the smooth working of an organization can capriciously exact his or her power to slow down work needlessly.

While the examples in the column are mostly from private-sector firms (although Sandberg offers up one, and a rather funny one at that, from the Navy), one doesn’t need to work too hard to see the parallels to the federal government. What comes quickly to mind are political appointees who hit resistance from career bureaucrats who work with the knowledge that the appointee will be gone in two years anyway, so why change? Also, entrenched IT managers resist consolidating infrastructure and IT processes. The Department of Homeland Security comes to mind as an example.

A quote from the column that is relevant to the government workplace: "'You might have the keys to the kingdom,' human-resources executive Mike Farrell notes, 'but if you don't have the keys to the gate, you're shafted.'"

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