| Working as counterparts - A Peace Corps In-service training manual |
|Module I: Bureaucratic effectiveness|
The first records of bureaucratic organizations are made at what is considered the birth of "civilization" some 5000 years ago. At that time the transition was being made from a migratory, grazing economy to a seed planting, cultivating society. There was a need on the part of farmers and governments to control the great river deltas such as the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and the Yellow Rivers.
According to John Ring Fairbanks, all these great river societies were "organized under centralized monolithic governments in which bureaucracy was dominant in all aspects or large-scale activity... The institution of compulsory labor by the people at the behest of the government usually became well-established.. This made possible the construction of large public works which still amaze us, like the pyramids of Egypt, or the Great Wall of China.
These ancient organizations soon developed the characteristics most often associated with bureaucracies:
• each person had a prescribed role skilled laborers, peasant workers, artisans, etc.;
• loyalty and obedience to the organization's goals was expected and promoted;
• recruits were systematically enlisted and trained;
• step-by-step promotions were made based on seniority and formal examinations;
• written records became the controlling force of human effort and the scribes who kept the records had special privileges and power;
• a military-type chain-of-command (with supervisors, middle-managers, and senior managers) was increasingly tailored to meet bureaucratic goals and direct human energy to those purposes.1
1 Steinberg, Rafael. Man and the Organization. N.Y.: Time-Life Books, 1975.
These basic bureaucratic forms continue to be used by all governments for carrying out their policies and delivering services to their publics.
In the United States most of us are born in hospitals bureaucracies set-up to handle our health care. By the age of six, we end our exclusive relationship with our family and enter the first of a series of educational experiences in bureaucracies. The major challenge for the individual during this period is to demonstrate bureaucratic competencies - the skills and abilities to accomplish a variety of assigned tasks. Those who do "well" in school are encouraged to join organizations. 83% of the working population will spend their work life in small and large organizations, a large number of which will resemble to a large extent those bureaucracies established in the ancient kingdoms.
Most persons working in bureaucracies are deeply impacted by the routines, standardizations, and lack of interest expressed in individual uniqueness. Many of these "bureaucrats" will become apathetic and passively accepting of the bureaucratic climate and experience. Others, a small minority will attempt to change the bureaucracy.
There are two basic strategies that persons interested in changing the bureaucracy tend to use. One, is to focus their work efforts on changing the very nature of the bureaucracy itself. Here the interest may be in changing the structures, hierarchies, norms and relationships so the bureaucracy becomes more personal and responsive to individual values.
The second strategy involves the individual in learning the skills and approaches for increasing his or her own bureaucratic effectiveness. Here the interest is to look at one's own relationship with the bureaucracy and determine ways to increase one's influence and make certain that important tasks and commitments are realized. Small informal task groups, for example, may be utilized to solve problems which the formal structures could not handle.
The following series of training sessions are an attempt to explore ways to increase skills and identify the attitudes that will allow each of us to increase our bureaucratic effectiveness. This will be done by analysis of how bureaucracies - in both the United States and host countries function and work. The focus will be to help individuals identify their own style, as well as patterns that become their own unique approach to bureaucratic work relationships. Sessions are designed to help individual. develop new approaches for becoming more effective and skillful within the bureaucracy through practicing new skills, consulting, and helping others to work and develop new ways of becoming more effective.
INTRODUCTION TO BUREAUCRATIC EFFECTIVENESS
Rationale for Training Session:
Many of us will spend all of our work life in bureaucratic organizations. We begin our contact with bureaucracies in grade school, and continue through other levels of schools and colleges and often then seek work in an organization of some kind. At this time in the Peace Corps Volunteer's Service, s/he has had considerable life and work experience in bureaucracies in the United States and now is beginning to experience work and life in connection with host country bureaucracies This session is intended to give each participant an opportunity to discuss his or her present involvement in the host country bureaucracy with which s/he works. By identifying some of the characteristics of bureaucracies which stimulate or frustrate work efforts, individuals will begin a process of identifying the unique style they bring to their work and relationships within organizations. (Read handout #1 as complete introduction to this module)
TOTAL TIME: Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
1. To review a perspective on the history of bureaucracies and their purpose and function from the beginning of the agricultural revolution to the present.
2. To identify participant's reactions (frustrations, learnings*) to involvement with both the host-country and the Peace Corps bureaucracies to date.
3. To identify similarities and differences in reactions participants have to their current bureaucratic experience.
Trainer Preparation for Session:
1. Brief other trainers on their roles in and expected outcomes of the session.
2. Read Handout #1 on "Bureaucratic Effectiveness". Since you will lead a group discussion on the topic, as you read the article, prepare your thoughts on: +
+ Utilize various host country resources
• your own experience in working within host country bureaucracies. Trainer Note: You might talk about how you have functioned within the bureaucracy, e.g., feelings about slowness of change or the importance of hierarchy. A host country perspective is important, so you may want to talk to language teachers, cross-cultural coordinators and other host-country staff to gain their perspective before the session.
• trends and changes that seem to be affecting host country bureaucracies at the present and how they may have remained the same over time, particularly if impacted by a previous colonial influence
Trainer note: Examples of typical trends and changes that seem to be affecting host country bureaucracies might be that
- the bureaucracies are getting larger
- they are more decentralized
- they have more women working in them
• your own observations about frustrations, confusions and positive aspects you have observed of Volunteers working in host country bureaucracies
Trainer Note: Your role as trainer in this session is not to solve the problems and issues which Volunteers confront in working within the Peace Corps and host country bureaucracies. Your role is to create a climate for full discussion of these issues. Therefore your ideas on the 3 major points mentioned are important.
3. Prepare necessary newsprint/blackboard and handouts
- pencils and paper
- session goals (step 1)
- task for identifying reactions to host country bureaucracies (step 3)
I. Introduction to the Session on
Bureaucratic Effectiveness (Step 2a)
1. Opening Statement
Begin the session by explaining to the participants that one of the largest sources of frustration for many Peace Corps Volunteers is working within bureaucracies to get things done. Tell them that the next 3 sessions will focus on
• defining and examining bureaucracies
• identifying some of the problems as well as successes people may be having and
• designing personal strategies for being effective in working with host country bureaucracies
Read the session goals from a prepared flipchart/blackboard.
Tell participants that one way to start examining bureaucracies is to look at them from a historical perspective.
Pass out the Handout #1 "Introduction to Bureaucratic Effectiveness. and ask them to read it as an introduction to this session.
2b. Participants individually read handout.
2c. As everyone finishes reading, help the trainees react to the article by leading a brief discussion.** Ask the following questions:
**See Trainer Reference
1. What are some general reactions to this article?
2. What are some of the different bureaucracies that you have been involved with in the U.S.?
3. How have these bureaucracies in which you have been involved influenced you both positively and negatively? (Increased frustration, apathy, lack of interest or sense of identity, contribution, learning.)
2d. As the discussion ends, briefly remark on the comments you prepared (see trainer preparation before session) which cover:
• your own experience with host country bureaucracies
• trends you have seen changing with host-country bureaucracies
• your observations of how Peace Corps Volunteers working within host country bureaucracies (frustrations, confusions, positive aspects, etc.)
3. Identification of Current Feelings
Now that you have offered your observations, ask participants to each identify the host country bureaucracies in which they are involved, and on a piece of paper to identify their current feelings about their experience to date working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in that bureaucracy. For instance you might say:
"You have heard some of my observations. But you have your own experience. You have now been a Peace Corps Volunteer working in a host country bureaucracy (or bureaucracies) for_____(period of time). Let's name some of those bureaucracies." (Participants will offer responses such as ministry of agriculture elementary school, a health center, etc.) "On a piece of paper, write down your major experiences and reactions or feelings you have hat working in that bureaucracy. Make two columns - in one column list the positive Reactions - in the other column list the negative reactions. Identify what has been frustrating , confusing, stimulating and what you have learned. After a few minutes, we will discuss your reactions."
You can use the following newsprint/ blackboard outline to explain the task.
Identify your major experiences so far, reactions and feelings about working with your host country bureaucracy.
List positive/negative responses in two separate columns, the fiat might include:
• anything else that describes your experience
4. Participants work individually to identify reactions and experiences
Large Group Discussion **
** See Trainer Reference
5a. Begin the group discussion that covers the following points:
• ask individuals to describe some of their frustrations. It is important you give participants an opportunity to freely explore and share their frustrations. You can help by paraphrasing* what you hear and encouraging the group to see if they can be as specific as possible about the causes and type of frustrations. It is more important that their frustrations are understood than that they are "correct".
* See Glossary
Trainer note: As an alternative, you can list their frustrations, confusions, etc. on newsprint or blackboard so that similarities/differences can be seen. Newsprint can be used in BE Session III when discussing strategies.
After frustrations have been described, direct the discussion through:
• what they have found stimulating about their experience in the host country bureaucracy.
• what they have found confusing (difficult) to understand a out the bureaucracy.
5b. End the discussion with the questions:
- "What have been the most important things you have learned about working in your host-country bureaucracy for (period of timer?"
- "What would be important to tell new arrivals about working in host country bureaucracies?
As participants offer responses, write each of their "learnings"* on newsprint/ blackboard. Encourage participants to each make notes in their notebooks.
* See glossary
Continue with the final question:
"Based on yours learnings, what one thing do you see yourself as doing differently, continuing to do, or changing in relating to working within the host country bureaucracy?"
Listen to a few (6-7) responses and then lead into closure.
Remind participants that they have begun to look at bureaucracies in general (past & present) and also to explore and compare their reactions to their current experiences with host country bureaucracies. Explain that this was the first step toward further examination of bureaucracies and the characteristics that might be causing some of the reactions they have described. "We will continue this in the next session."