Yesterday, it so happened that I was invited to speak to a group of senior government bureaucrats on this very subject. Most questions concerned the nature of the private sector and how government bureaucracies should evolve to meet citizen needs.
Public bureaucracies, better known as government bureaucracies, provide government continuity and stable governance. These operate in a system of rules, regulations, and procedures that have, over time, been perfected to give the two objectives stated earlier- stability and continuity.
Imagine living in an environment where one day you are driving on the right side of the road, and you are told that for efficiency and streamlining of traffic on road x, you are required to drive on the left side.
Governments come and go, but the country has to keep running and functioning. The country is governed by rules and regulations that everyone understands and observes. The bureaucracy provides this framework of governance of a society.
Business firms operate on completely different principles. Efficiency, outputs, profits, quality, and speed are some of the paramount requirements. Businesses, therefore, must be agile, responsive, and rapidly responding to their customers’ needs.
Companies will change their products, processes, organizations, strategies, and business models to attain a competitive advantage.
If measured from the parameters of businesses, government bureaucracies worldwide are inefficient and unresponsive to citizen needs. For this reason, citizens worldwide constantly blame governments for poor agility, slow decision-making, and poor quality of services.
But government bureaucracies perform the function of an independent, neutral regulator who makes decisions based on set rules and procedures. Private entities can go to these independent bureaucracy-managed bodies for grievance redress. Citizens, too, can approach these to secure rulings and grievance redress against both private bodies. Imagine a jurisdiction without an independent regulatory body. That will be quite a challenge for ordinary citizens.
Government bureaucracies and private businesses have different roles and requirements.