Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It

By James Q. Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
People

ONE DAY IN 1977, a personnel specialist at the United States Navy's Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC) in San Diego visited an electronics engineer working on torpedo designs. "I'm here to classify your job," the engineer was told. "What do you do?" The engineer, irked by this unwelcome intrusion, muttered that he "invented things." The personnel specialist wrote down this fact and returned to her office. She took from a shelf the volume entitled Position Classification Standard for Electronics Engineering, Series GS-855, published in 1971 by the United States Civil Service Commission, which described the skills that engineers at various levels are supposed to have. At the time, the engineer was in grade GS-15 (the U.S. civil service system classifies all employees in eighteen grades, from GS-1 at the bottom to GS-18 at the top).* She decided that "inventing things" was not part of the job description of a GS-15 engineer but that it might be part of the assignment of a GS-13. She advised the engineer's supervisor that the job should be downgraded to the lower level.

The supervisor erupted in anger. The engineer as it turned out was the world's leading expert on the logic systems of torpedo guidance devices. Without him the torpedo development program at NOSC would be crippled. If his job were downgraded he probably would quit.

The incident was one of many that had generated what one manager called "extreme animosity" between government personnel officers and government managers at NOSC and elsewhere. Line managers regarded personnel specialists as ignorant busybodies who couldn't tell the difference between an engineer and an elevator operator. The specialists regarded line managers as loose cannons who did not understand that jobs

____________________
*
"GS" stands for "General Schedule."

-137-

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Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the New Edition ix
  • Notes xvi
  • Preface xvii
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • Part I - Organizations 1
  • Chapter 1 - Armies, Prisons, Schools 3
  • Chapter 2 - Organization Matters 14
  • Part II - Operators 29
  • Chapter 3 - Circumstances 31
  • Conclusions 48
  • Chapter 4 - Beliefs 50
  • Conclusions 70
  • Chapter 5 - Interests 72
  • Conclusions 88
  • Chapter 6 - Culture 90
  • Part III - Managers 111
  • Chapter 7 - Constraints 113
  • Chapter 8 - People 137
  • Conclusions 153
  • Chapter 9 - Compliance 154
  • Summary: Achieving Compliance 174
  • Part IV - Executives 177
  • Chapter 10 - Turf 179
  • Conclusions 195
  • Chapter 11 - Strategies 196
  • Conclusions 217
  • Chapter 12 - Innovation 218
  • Part V - Context 233
  • Chapter 13 - Congress 235
  • Appendix - Congressional Dominance: a Closer Look 254
  • Chapter 14 - Presidents 257
  • Chapter 15 - Courts 277
  • Chapter 16 - National Differences 295
  • Part VI - Change 313
  • Chapter 17 - Problems 315
  • Conclusions 331
  • Chapter 18 - Rules 333
  • Chapter 19 - Markets 346
  • Conclusions 363
  • Chapter 20 - Bureaucracy and the Public Interest 365
  • Notes 379
  • Index 409
  • Subject Index 418
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