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Process = Product

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By Tim Reavis, on June 9, 2012

What is the product of the a county government? Is it a strong school system? impressive capital projects? an efficient (or inefficient) solid waste department? all of the above? Over and over the last few weeks working at Orange County I’ve heard the words “our process is our product”. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this means. Sometimes I’ve heard it after a meeting goes longer than expected (very often), and has been unproductive. In this context I take it as a statement meant to cheer up staff when they feel like particular projects aren’t going anywhere or they have been asked to redo something a different way for what they perceive to be a poor reason. Other times I hear it when the agenda is being prepared for the BOCC meetings, and the staff suspect that the particular item they are preparing for will be heavily scrutinized. Still other times I hear process = product when the county is looking for input from many perspectives. The more bodies at the table, generally the longer it takes to make a decision about a particular issue. For both very important issues and moderately important issues Orange County looks for input from a wide variety of stakeholders. Under this context, the process of incorporating such a group, and achieving “buy-in” from all of them is the product. Its easy for me to be critical of this approach when I read complaints that government never gets anything done, and see opportunities for the county to make speedier decisions. However, Orange County residents appear to be very active in the affairs of the county. They have elected the commissioners who define the goals of the county and the pace at which to move forward with the execution of the task to achieve those goals. I try and frame my work this summer through this lens.
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