Getting fast results in Bureaucratic Hierarchies – the personal touch

The first job I had in local government was as a housing officer. 

One of the very tough problems we had to deal with from time to time was helping people suffering from domestic violence. One particularly beautiful young woman had suffered brain injuries from the battering (better word I think) she had recieved from her drug addict partner over the years. This was happening (and probably still is) in a small council block in Bloomsbury. 

So he had tracked her and her 3 yearold daughter   down and she had come to me needing yet another move – but she utterly dreaded the idea of bed and breakfast or a refuge. 

The council had the concept of an emergency move – but how to make that happen in reality?

First fill out the paperwork and input the data – correctly coded – on the system. Note: it may feel to many that this respresents  ‘job done’ – a good day’s work – but remember – what you are trying to do is get the family an emergency move to safety.

In these circumstances would you put the required paperwork and evidence in the internal mail? This was the latter day equivalent of  email – easily lost or overlooked. 


I found what worked was having a relationship with the person making the lettings allocations. Not her boss or a committee. 
Taking the paperwork direct to the her, appealing to her better nature.
Checking  the lists  of vacant flats together for somewhere meeting the client’s needs, getting the boss to sign it off then going to the distant housing office, picking up the keys checking it out then aranging the move next day while she stayed overnight at a friend’s.

This sounds time consuming but much more cost effective than the costs of months in B&B and more humane for her and her child more to the point.

In my experience (20+ years)  direct action and building relationships is the only way to get successful outcomes quickly in bureaucratic  hierarchies. 

Every piece if work is a campaign.

Procedures have nothing to do with it – but only by knowing them inside out – working round them with every ounce of creativity and energy can you get a result. Gaming. 

Now that those cumbersome procedures have been hard coded into one size fits all scripted workflows it is getting harder and harder to give people a nuanced personalised  service. Especially in Council supporting people services and health. It is really hard to show you care. 

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