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In Praise of State and Local Government

by Mark P. McDonald  |  June 8, 2012  |  2 Comments

Governments take it on the chin for various reasons, bloated budgets, poor service, mistakes, etc.  Recognizing good service is important to act, as a counterweight to the bad things the media would lead you to believe.

This week I renewed my Driver’s License, new piece of plastic with a new picture, etc.  I visited the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles the DMV. Popular media would have you believe that government is bloated, inefficient, uncaring and not capable.  I am sure in some places and situations it is, but not from my recent experience.

The DMV office was in an older building, but it was clean and friendly – to a point.  The use of technology was simple and clear and illustrates a number of practices that others should consider.

Differentiated Service – The reception desk provided a number and I waited to be called.  Each number had a code in it – type A, B.C etc.  The code denoted different types of transactions.  The system used these different types of transactions to queue people in different ways.  So rather than standing in line and being taken sequentially, you were handled sequentially by type of request.  Simple license renewals did not have to wait behind complex commercial truck license applications.

Digital signage kept everyone aware of who was being called.  Announcing new numbers over the intercom provided a sense of the pace and efficiency of the process. About once every three to four minutes a number was called, so you knew that people were being served as a reasonable pace.

Differentiated workforce — Once called, the people at the desk knew what to do and handled the transaction efficiently.  Some specialized in one type of transaction – like license renewals while other desks took different types of transactions.  This provided a good match between business need and human capability.

Within 40 minutes I was back on the street with a new license and the feeling that State and Local government is really doing their job well – at least in this case.

I point out this experience as I am concerned that much of this good work, the process, technology and operational reforms that made this experience possible might be swept away in budget cuts etc. as leaders look to make day to day operations pay for a structural imbalance of payments.  Such approaches, like downsizing in order to pay off corporate debt, is counterproductive as the very people who deliver services are expected to be the solution to problems caused elsewhere.

With the Internet providing a service channel, most of us do not interact directly with state and local government on a regular basis.  When did you last need to go into a state office building, your local town hall, etc.? While that makes sense, there are people who are working in these facilities, serving citizens and helping people.

I worked in local government over the summers when I was in High School.  I saw the challenges associated in dealing with the diversity of the ‘public’ their needs; issues and concerns are real, diverse and require our attention.  I think it’s important to point out that when it works, which is more often than many would expect, it works well.

So thanks for my new license, I was getting tired of the TSA screeners reminding me that I needed a new one.  And more importantly, I want to thank you for a job well done, a job that others should know about.

Category: business-process  customer-experience  personal-observation  

Tags: customer  government  personal-observation  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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