How many times have you gone to a public agency and asked for help on an issue you had, only be told one of the following:
"That's not our department."
"I don't have the authority to do that."
"Rules are rules."
This type of run-around gives bureaucracy that bad name that it has with most people. As someone who works for a public bureaucracy and who is also a customer, I write now to present ideas on how our government can address the issue and make itself more accessible to the public.
The new structure needed is simple: the public has answers and the government has an obligation to provide them.
If the government wants to do its best to provide answers, then it has an obligation to send its most knowledgeable people to discuss matters with the public.
Who are the most knowledgeable people? These people are usually the ones who have been within a given subject, the ones who have moved up in the ranks and who have acquired the most knowledge of specific rules and laws.
This person typically occupies the position of head of the department. Or at least they should be. In any event, a department head, from my observation in having worked at different cities, spends quite a bit of time at meetings, public ceremonies or other "official" duties.
Some of these duties may truly be necessary, but the public would benefit more if the department head sat at the table across from customers and gave the official answers to their questions.
That way, the customers can (1) get an answer from the person required to stand by it, (2) avoid the delay of going through other people and (3) receive the respect they need right away, especially if the question is especially difficult.
The bureaucracy will benefit as well. No longer will mistakes made by subordinates of the department head cause delays in the government's ability to resolve the dispute. The department will also get through its cases much more efficiently.
Adjustments can be made in the office to suit the department head's schedule. When the department head must go out of the office (vacation, educational course, etc.), they can designate someone to be in charge. This substitute would receive the best kind of training possible: on-the-job training.
And what about everyone else who currently handle customer questions? They should rotate sitting next to the boss to learn more about the difficult questions that the public asks the department. They will learn more about what issues the department handles and what should be sent to another department (with the specific person's name and title to be contacted).
Changes to the way the government handles matters do not have to be major or sweeping. They just have to respond to the needs of the people who keep our government in "business": the public.