Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A failure in management

Powerline reports that where President Kennedy's 2.5 million executive branch employees had 17 different levels, President Trump will inherit a bureaucracy with about 2.7 million employees and 63 levels.  Despite the fact that the number of employees has (mercifully) not grown much, the number of men at executive levels has grown from 450 to over 3000.

To put it gently, from a corporate "span of control" viewpoint, this simply boggles the mind if true.  In 1961, what's being said is that the average manager oversaw only 2.4 employees, which is pretty bad--good companies have 5-10 subordinates per manager.  Today, the number, assuming a uniform distribution of subordinates, is 1.24.  It reminds me of the time I saw that two VPs of a company--one reporting to the other--had no subordinates besides the next level VP down and their secretaries. 

It suggests that if a department head takes a careful look at his org charts, he ought to be able to trim payroll by a lot very, very quickly.  Judging by the number of layers, there are only about half a million to a million "individual contributors" in government, which would mean with the 1961 "span of control" of about 2.43, you would only need a total of somewhere between 600,000 and 1.3 million federal workers to get the work done, reducing federal payroll by 60-90%.  If you get the span of control to a reasonable value of 5-10, it's even more drastic.

Now this isn't a perfect analysis, as some departments are likely more top-heavy than others, and some are bigger than others.  On the flip side, the situation may be worse than I suggested, as the guy at the top of the bureaucracy--the President of course--has 15 direct reports in the Cabinet plus his personal staff and issue "Czars".  It may indeed be possible to trim hundreds of billions from the national budget without impairing government services one iota.  Time to look at those org charts, as it's arguable that the civil service has far more layers than does the Army, but without the need for redundancy that military organizations have.

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