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Book / Podcast Recommendation: Recoding America
Jennifer Pahlka’s new book Recoding America tackles the reality that government frequently fails to deliver the quality services that citizens expect and shows how we can do better.
Ezra Klein said
“Jennifer Pahlka has written one of the best policy books I’ve ever read.”
He was talking about Recoding America, released last month. I just finished reading it and think that Win-Win Democracy readers should read it too. Alternatively, listen to or read Klein’s interview with her.
Pahlka explains why government commonly delivers programs and services that are oppressively difficult for people to access and extraordinarily expensive for government to provide. And late. Not a good combination.
Using real examples, she explains the cultural issues that cause legislators, policymakers, and bureaucrats to make government fail to deliver for citizens, not (usually) out of malice, but out of processes that were designed for a different era, not for the digital age.
(Many Win-Win Democracy readers have worked in the software industry. You’ll recognize the same kinds of massive failures that industry had when waterfall development processes were dominant and some similar cultural issues were rampant. Teaser: Enterprise service bus for GPS satellites.)
Again using real examples, Pahlka shows what it takes to do much better. It can be done — it has been done — but it will take years to fundamentally change the way that governments work, making them more successful at delivering services to citizens.
(For the software folks: Agile development processes, with a focus on product management instead of project management, building and deploying minimal systems, and continuous stakeholder involvement.)
This is all relevant to Win-Win Democracy readers because she also explains how we all win — liberals and conservatives — by providing good services to citizens, thus restoring their faith in government while spending less to deliver more.
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