The Government House of Mirrors

Why does government remind me of a house of mirrors? I remember always being most terrified at the local carnivals by the house of mirrors as a child. It looks harmless enough, but once you get in there, your image is distorted and instead of finding the correct path you are always running into more mirrors – and your own distorted reflection. Try as you might to find the clear path and the exit, obstacles are constantly in the way. When you finally find your way to the end, you are exhausted. What should have been a straightforward path took ten times as long to complete.

"In many ways, government resembles this carnival attraction"

In many ways, government resembles this carnival attraction. The most obvious one is from a constituent looking in. When a life event happens, or when we require government services, it requires a lot of searching through a maze of hallways to find the right door. And when we finally are successful with that, the information about us is fragmented. We end up having to give the same information multiple times to get what we need, and hitting multiple dead ends before we finally get to our result.

Secondly, from the government employee perspective, it’s no walk in the park, either. Government has people entering their house of mirrors and their employees do their very best to help them with the right services and benefits. Yet, the information that government employees are looking at – or looking for – is as fragmented and distorted as reflections in the house of mirrors. Government agencies will take these incomplete fragments of our information, and review these distorted images and attempt to make a clear image, while guiding us correctly to the end of the maze. Which is easier said than done.

Last, but not least, let’s consider technology. Sure, there’s little tech to the carnival attraction, but we all know some government agencies aren’t faring well. The systems and the information belonging to many of these systems are fragmented – causing the house of mirrors effect from inside-out and outside in. At the same token, the house of mirrors systems approach is very fragile – one wrong turn and you have to start over from the beginning. The more times this happens, the higher the risk of ultimate failure…or at the very least, a project that takes bad turns, i.e. over budget, larger scope and late timeframe.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With current technology, the house of mirrors – the distorted and fragmented images – can become a crystal-clear reflection with a clear path and direction. Increased efficiency, agility – rapid response to change, and consolidated information – across any delivery channel method – needs to be leveraged today. So, why does government still have house of mirror issues? In my opinion, it starts with antiquated and siloed procurement processes that are defined by mountains of requirements.

To err is human. But repeating this mistake time and time again and expecting different results is unhealthy. After all, who wants to keep bumping into mirrors?

If you have any house of mirrors stories worth sharing, I’d love to hear from you.


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