The main difficulties can be extracted from the following assertions:
1) Everyone is a “decision maker,” but every decision requires consensus.
2) The purse strings are many, and so are the knots.
3) The phrase “just around the corner” means there are more corners.
4) The words “yes” and “no” are fully interchangeable — and sometimes retroactive.
Transferring any kind of knowledge to a government agency is very difficult, but not impossible. It requires time, resources, patience, and connections. Relationships are extremely important. The upshot is that once something has been installed, it is very difficult to get rid of it. Of course, this is also one of the downsides.
In a nutshell, working with the government means you must be able to grasp, appreciate, and manage paradoxes. If you can do this, they will love you. Your ideas must have a logical “fit” with their guidelines, procedures, specifications, and so on. Anything that is “different” from the historical continuum is naturally suspect. Consequently, it is often necessary to garb your thinking in their intellectual clothing, so to speak.
You must be able to relate and reflect the values of any agency you are working with. No two agencies have the same set of values, nor does any two have the same goals and objectives. So a single “curriculum” simply won’t fly – even within the same agency. Generally speaking, you must look at a government agency like a Fortune 100 corporation that has no profit motive and often does not want to cut costs. Deploying and implementing anything can often be like “threading a needle in wind storm.”
Another upshot is that once an agency starts to build momentum in a given direction, the machine is virtually unstoppable. Believe it or not, there are many very fine leaders in government agencies – even change agents. Seek them out and form alliances, but know when to “duck and dodge.”