What role does excellence have in public service?

Dinoland in Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a distinct feel that differs from other themed portions of the massive resort.  Known the world over for excellence, the Walt Disney Company provides unparalleled experiences to their guests, obsessing over the tiniest of details.  Imagine my surprise upon entering this section of the park that looks and feels like a local street carnival.  What catches your eye first?

Dinoland

How different does this scene look from your local parking lots?  Does anything stand out?  For me, the crack filled blacktop with faded striping was absolute theming perfection.  This effect carries through into the queue lines where most would never even consider looking.  It was so well done, I wasn’t convinced that this area wasn’t simply repurposed.  I’ve been assured by some longtime cast member ‘experts’, it wasn’t.

Attention to detail- so perfect that I am sure it goes virtually unnoticed.  There is a team out there who planned details such as these, and it is likely they wondered if the extra effort would be noticed, or appreciated.

The Pew Research Center reports that trust in public government is near historic lows.  The news isn’t all bad as a 2014 Gallop Survey reveals local government retains a much higher degree of public confidence (72% approval).  We each have a role to play in reversing these trends.

When have you ever known someone to complain about excellence?  As in life, negatives are more noticeable and provide fodder for citizen discussion.  Excellence often goes completely unnoticed, much like the parking lot in Dinoland.  Residents will notice a smooth ride to work only briefly following the repair of a much needed, and perhaps long neglected road damaged by seasonal changes or untold numbers of underground utility repairs.

I have adopted the motto ‘Striving for Excellence’ and placed it on each of the responding fire and EMS apparatus within my organization.  Intended to serve as a subtle reminder, each firefighter and paramedic has a role to play in our organizational commitment.  Likewise, the community should expect that we uphold this promise to them.  Find ways to build confidence by maintaining community trust.  Faithful provision of governmental services that are both consistent and compassionate will result in citizen confidence.  Citizen satisfaction should be just as important as consumer loyalty is to Disney executives.

There is a balance, and your citizens must be involved in assisting government leaders in striking it.  The opposing side of the scale is, of course, available fiscal resources.  The fulcrum must be adjusted as you incrementally raise the bar and the community increases the investment placed in the various divisions and departments benefiting the citizens.  Involve formal and informal organizational leadership in concert with community organizations and representatives.  Solve organizational problems by focusing on obvious pain points.  Find the ‘easy’ wins and build upon them.

Excellence is universally recognized.  Only those keenly focused will notice the subtle details.  Certainly the measures vary and the expectations differ, but good governance deserves just as much attention to detail, as Disney has invested in recreating a community festival- and all of the pleasant values of community that this theme park relies upon recreating.

One thought on “What role does excellence have in public service?

  1. Walt Disney was once asked why he was such a perfectionist, and why he expected such attention to detail in his company’s works (viz the raindrops in “Bambi,” to cite just one example).
    The interviewer persisted: “Your audience won’t even notice the details are there.”
    Walt’s reply: “No, but they’ll notice if they aren’t.”

    Liked by 1 person

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