Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Feds," A Reality Show - Here's The Pitch


I know you must be thinking that my idea involves comedy. Since we normally see headlines that may as well shout: "Federal workers are bumbling fools."

But I don't mean this as comedy at all. And anyway, we're not.

What we are, on the whole, is:
  • Highly skilled
  • Passionate about helping other people
  • Caught in a system that does not always achieve its highest goals or intended ends
What I'd like to see is a reality show of the "interventionist" kind. Where the "makeover expert" - an organizational development type, most likely - has a chance to take total control for a week.

This person:
  • Is introduced to the agency and its mission.
  • Joins a small team - let's say, a unit or working group - with a task.
  • Learns from them about their preferred way of getting it done, their culture and processes.
  • --Normally, expresses shock that the processes are so inefficient.--
  • Introduces his or her "expert" approach and is given total control of the group for a week.
  • After that week, we come back in 2-3 months and find out how the unit is faring.
I think this show would be a huge, huge hit. Because reality shows like this are a hit. And the public loves federal workers - even as they distrust the government itself. They are endlessly curious about the "real" goings-on in Washington, and value any opportunity to peek behind the curtain.

More than that, it's a common source of frustration that D.C. suffers from gridlock. A show like this, even though it would be apolitical in the strict sense, would be a chance to discover some of the factors that contribute to government inertia. To to make a real, positive difference in shaking that up. 

Because, obviously, it's well-known that when you put the microscope to a socially aware being, the being itself changes. That is true whether you're talking about tracking someone's eating habits and then weighing them [The Biggest Loser], or following a group as it battles to survive in the wild [Survivor]. 

That's social media. That's digital engagement - where you must answer others who "see" you. 

That's the premise of transparency: When we see ourselves, we are forced to change and grow.

I hope a TV network decides to do a show like this, and films a range of federal agencies in action. The public would thrill to see it. Federal employees would revel in some well-deserved limelight. And all of us would benefit from watching the interactions then hearing an impartial expert's view from a grounded, real-world setting. 

Everybody wins when the operations of government are optimized.

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Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo by Bryan Jones via Flickr.

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