Everyone has experienced the "red tape" that bureaucracies apply to operations, slowing things down and making them inefficient.
At first it's puzzling. For example, why would Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) send a truck, two workers and a key to Dufferin Grove Park every day eight months a year for the sole purpose of locking the field house washrooms, when recreation staff on site could do that in minutes? Cost: perhaps $10,000 per year, wasted.
Examples like this can only be explained as part of a larger pattern. PFR, it seems, has clear management preferences compatible with a technocratic mindset. It favours centralization, systems over people, process over outcome. Some years back at Dufferin Grove, for instance, we counted no fewer than a dozen managers and supervisors who now have some direct control over the space, largely uncoordinated. Most would call those "silos" - a recipe for expensive chaos.
PFR's budget has increased by almost 40 per cent, and user fee increases (mostly) have led to a 25 per cent rise in fee revenues. Yet improvements in service are impossible to find.
Some think bureaucratic inefficiency is inevitable. I don't buy it. It's based on management decisions, and in principle, it's easy to fix. Just turn the management practices upside down. Favour localization, people over systems, outcomes over process, and the primary directive of responsiveness. Focus on the people - their talents, experience and judgment.
PFR actually had at least one working demonstration of this constructive mindset. Dufferin Grove Park since 1993 went from a slightly spooky inner-city park to a universally accepted model of a neighbourhood park. This was accomplished by community activism and a core of about 30 part-time rec staff who had, yes, become engaged and energized.
That work is now being dismantled. Park programs are degrading and participation is down. I estimate that 100 years of collective staff experience has been lost. Now, that's waste.