In a recent training session on federal personnel systems with a government agency, participants kept venting their frustration about a “changing mission.” I pushed back several times; surely the mission had not really changed, I asked? Wasn’t it the methodology for pursuing that mission that kept changing, in response to budget and resource issues and political pressures?
They didn’t seem to agree. But finally someone clarified the dilemma and the group agreed: We’ve lost sight of our mission, he said. We’re not doing what we exist to do anymore. We’re just reacting to the push and pull of an unhappy public and politicians under pressure to espouse inflexible party lines.
I had told them earlier about my recent experience with the hoarded white board markers and door stops. I meant it as comic relief but they didn’t even crack a smile. It’s simply their reality right now, and there’s nothing funny about it.
There’s nothing funny about our government agencies losing sight of their mission, either. I’ve seen private sector organizations lose their mission and it’s hard to get it back. Employees lose their passion for the work. Managers lose their perspective about how to lead effectively. Everyone bounces from crisis to crisis and it’s hard to remember why we’re here except that we need a paycheck. Nothing good can come of this. We need to quit bashing the government and figure out how to restore it to its mission, and that requires having intelligent dialogue rather than mouthing mindless partisan cliches.