Gatekeeper or facilitator?

If you are a member of local government, there are two attitudes you
can take towards business. You can choose to be a facilitator, or a
gatekeeper. Both of them technically fulfill your job requirements.
But only one leads to growth.

Gatekeepers have the attitude that it is their primary duty to make
sure everyone observes the letter of regulation, and beyond that they
have no responsibility. Gatekeepers sit and wait for someone to come
along and try to start a business. They watch silently as the business
owner assembles her plan. Then when she tries to make a move – say,
open an office – they check the paperwork. If she has failed to dot an
I or cross a T they tell her she can’t open until she gets it fixed.
They tell her sorry, it’s out of their hands, she needs to talk to the
office that handles those forms. Then when she finally gets it fixed,
they find the next error she has committed, and the cycle starts

The gatekeepers code is “it is my job to make sure everyone plays by the rules”.

Facilitators take the attitude that it is their job to make sure
businesses get off the ground. They don’t just sit on the sidelines
and watch. They are like that annoying paperclip in Microsoft Office –
they keep their eye open for entrepreneurs. When they find one, they
say “It looks like you’re trying to start a business. Let me help.”.
They use their experience to provide lists of all the regulatory
hurdles – obvious and not-so-obvious – that the business will have to
overcome as it gets off the ground. If a permit is needed from another
office, they use their connections to check on the status of the
application and make sure it hasn’t gotten lost in someone’s desk.
They watch over the process until it comes to completion.

The facilitators fundamental creed is “it is my job to make sure you succeed”.

The important thing to note here is that the facilitator DOESN’T cut
corners. Both the facilitator and the gatekeeper ensure that everyone
plays by the rules. But they have different focuses – the gatekeeper
is only interested in compliance, whereas the facilitator has the
larger goal of growth in mind,

The City of York Pennsylvania has a government that is, in my
experience, staffed almost entirely by gatekeepers. And it will not become a center of
growth until they turn that attitude around.

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  1. Interesting observation–and one that I intuitively agree with. I would also like to say that I’ve noticed the same kind of phenomenon in teaching… you have the same kind of gatekeepers–who will teach kids the material that they’ve been told to teach–and who see their main job as to then grade and sort kids by their pre-set criterion–and they are not at all surprised or bent out of shape if a large number of kids don’t seem to have learned the material–that’s just the breaks.On the other hand, I’ve been lucky growing up to have much more of the “facillitator” kind of teacher who sees it as their job to try and make sure that you succeed–and who do so exactly in the manner that you describe above. They don’t cut corners or lower standards, but instead use their knowledge of the system to try and figure out ways of helping all kids to succeed as best as they can. From these examples (and I had a dozen+ examples of this during high school), I’ve tried also to be such a teacher to my freshmen writing students.. I have my standards–but I make it clear that I will be more than willing to help and try and figure out how to get them to learn what they need to learn… In any case–I would turn this around for a second and ask–because it’s a question that bugs me also–do you see any purpose for “gatekeepers” at all in our society? I mean–there appear to be a TON of them (and if we were to get all mbti for a second, they would tend to be the xSxJ guardians that make up like 50% of the population..) around… and they often drive me up the wall in what appears to be the same way as they do you… A Turkey for your thoughts…

  2. Furthermore–looking at your specific example–my facillitator mind automatically asked “why isn’t there some sort of time based waiver procedure–that could allow a waiver on that regulation for a set time period–maybe say like 3 years–for a small fee (~$50) per year” In addition–I tend to see such a situation as much more of the kind of thing that you then put incentives on over the long term.. Have a waiver thing like above available–but then, instead of mandating such bathrooms wholesale and always–just set up monetary incentives/penalties like “$1000/year penalty for any business over a certain size (#of employees >20?) for the lack of a handicap accssible bathroom..” or something similar… That would encourage–but not force people to install them… Of course–maybe this would defeat the purpose–and would just create a new level of bureaucracy–because how would you track and enforce such things.. I don’t know.. that’s where the complications probably lie… But that’s what the old-school liberal in me says…

  3. Not one that I can think of, except maybe appeasement when the human-eating aliens arrive.I'd say that Gatekeepers are useful when you actively want to discourage people from a particular position or pastime – e.g. as a way to make positions of power (cop, TSA agent) less enticing. But I'm not sure that the people who eventually bull their way through the process are the ones you want in those positions. Being a Gatekeeper is fundamentally about laziness, so I don't think it's ever really a virtue. It's about rising to your peronsal level of incompetence, holding on to the position, and doing the least work necessary to maintain it – all while being able to plausibly say you've done your job. Actually, let me qualify that a bit. It is occasionally useful to *play* the gatekeeper. We've all read stories where the public official holds up a particularly odious/villainous character from doing… whatever it is he wants to do by putting all kinds of bureaucratic roadblocks in his way. Unfortunately, in real life I think this ability to selectively play gatekeeper is more often used for evil than for good.

  4. I think the York-style solution to the problem is to call a town meeting and then give everyone who shows up a parking ticket. Then roll around naked in the parking revenue.

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