First, End The Acronyms!

The American public clearly is dissatisfied with government, but not, I believe, because the public understands what the government is doing and disagrees with it. The public is at odds with the "bureaucracy" because government is fundamentally inaccessible and nearly impossible to understand.

While in government, working as chief operating officer of the financial crisis program at Treasury and as general counsel of the Export-Import Bank, I would often stop meetings, including some very large meetings with some very important people, when colleagues started tossing around acronyms that I knew no one else around the table understood. Sometime people inside government don’t even understand the language of government. When you’re on the outside, it’s practically incomprehensible and there’s a lot of translation needed.

Just this morning, while doing some background work for a client project, I clicked on one federal agency’s drop down menu for one tab on its website and found no less than 15 acronyms. And this was a web page that was supposed to make it easier for small businesses to work with government!! As one of my mentors once said, "Language defines culture." The language of government is arcane, cryptic, and foreign. Policy makers ought to stop fighting about the size of government and the bureaucracy and start talking about increasing government’s accessibility.

Many people in and around government don’t want that to happen. They make their living off of that language barrier and speaking an "exclusive" language makes them feel important. But the citizens of this country would feel a lot better about their government and government could do a lot more for the people if there was a concerted effort to bridge the gap and to make government more user-friendly.

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For many businesses, nothing seems more remote than the maneuvering of Beltway insiders. But what happens in Washington and in state and local government is critically important to your company and your industry. With government more involved in business than at any time since the 1930s, organizations that can negotiate the government labyrinth of politics, policy, and process will come out on top.
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