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Authors: Linda Kaboolian
Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1991
Length: 11 pages

Abstract

Within three years of its implementation, the Social Security Administration''s nationwide 800 telephone service was handling the largest volume of 800 calls of any organization in the world. In addition to this volume, approximately 15 million callers got a busy signal rather than an answer. Even so, the SSA projected an annual increase in calls, due in part to a high level of customer satisfaction with the service provided by the SSA operators. Part of the historic legacy of protecting the public from government inefficiency and malfeasance is the widespread imposition of controls in the authorizing environment. Executive agencies that control budgeting and procurement are preeminent in this regard, and, in conjunction with legislative oversight, produce a tension that can retard dynamic service initiatives. Can government trust itself and create an "okay to fail" zone?

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Abstract

Within three years of its implementation, the Social Security Administration''s nationwide 800 telephone service was handling the largest volume of 800 calls of any organization in the world. In addition to this volume, approximately 15 million callers got a busy signal rather than an answer. Even so, the SSA projected an annual increase in calls, due in part to a high level of customer satisfaction with the service provided by the SSA operators. Part of the historic legacy of protecting the public from government inefficiency and malfeasance is the widespread imposition of controls in the authorizing environment. Executive agencies that control budgeting and procurement are preeminent in this regard, and, in conjunction with legislative oversight, produce a tension that can retard dynamic service initiatives. Can government trust itself and create an "okay to fail" zone?

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