The black hole of the bureaucracy…

Any big bureaucratic organization worth its salt has a process covering just about everything you might need to accomplish during your regularly scheduled work period. If you’re lucky, some of those processes might even actually work despite inevitably being antiquated, creaking relics left over from the Eisenhower Administration.

More often, in my experience, the process that exists simply stops working at a certain point. Somewhere along the workflow there’s either a person or an individual who is the organizational equivalent of a super-massive black hole. Everything that crosses into the jurisdiction of this office or individual passes across some kind of bureaucratic event horizon from which not even light itself has the velocity to escape.

These places are, in the simplest terms possible, where projects, paperwork, and hope go to be extinguished. These are the places where the process, no matter how well intentioned or neatly diagramed, simply break down and prevent actual work from happening. They’re the very core essence of what it is to live and work in the bureaucracy.

If a staff officer is worth a damn, he’ll find ways to work around these dangerous sectors – identifying people who will play ball and allow him to navigate around the gravitational pull of broken processes. Eventually, though, the bureaucracy catches on to the fact that it’s being subverted. It lashes out with renewed fury to suck in all the paperwork that has heretofore managed to escape its grasping maw.

With no way around and faced with failing timelines if work is pushed through the process to its illogical conclusion, sometimes all even a seasoned bureaucrat can do is shrug, accept that nothing will ever be completed in a timely manner, and prepare for the inevitable, quasar-like explosion once the black hole has consumed more work product than it could possibly hope to process.

Look, I’m paid for the same eight hours whether shit gets done or not, so if you’d prefer the “or not” option, just let me know up front so I’ll know how much effort to apply to any given issue. That could have saved us all a whole bunch of time. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be over here heaving products over the event horizon expecting to never see them again.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bank of America (I believe this entry represents their 2nd oak leaf cluster for the year to date). I totally understand you wanting proof that my condo is covered under a master insurance policy that secures the entire building and not just the walls of my unit. Due diligence is a good thing. I’m happy to send you whatever information you need. I’m going to be less enthused the second time I send you the Bank-Of-America-Logo-1same information. When you ask me for the third time to provide you with exactly the same information I’ve sent you twice already, well, I’m going to start questioning whether I can really trust you to hold my mortgage at all since you can’t seem to keep track of something as simple as the name and phone number of an insurance agent.

2. Waiting until the last minute. All rumors to the contrary, I’m actually a fan of procedures. I like knowing that there is a way to do things and that if I follow the instructions step-by-step I’ll get a predictable result. When, after following all the required steps and procedures, I find that I’ve been bumped in favor of something that’s being thrown together at the last minute without going through the same wickets, it makes me wonder if in the future it might not be better to go ahead and wait to the last minute, declare an emergency, and then do whatever the hell I want. If flying by the seat of your pants gets the same result in the end and takes 1/10th the planning time, tell me again why I should follow the actual procedures?

3. Voicemail. Yes, thanks to the wonder of modern technology you can leave a message for me on my phone that I can listen to at my convenience. You see, though, the thing is that checking voicemail is never really convenient. I see that you called. If it’s a number I recognize, I’ll call you back as soon as I can, no message needed. If it’s a number I don’t recognize, you’re going to voicemail because I don’t want to talk to you so leaving a message doesn’t really do much beyond antagonize me. More often than not I’m going to delete your message without listening to it anyway, so why not save us all some time and effort? And if you do need to hear my voice immediately and I’m not picking up, chose one of the plethora of text-based communication tools available on your phone and send a quick “need to talk ASAP.” Even when I don’t have the time or interest to drop everything else to focus on just one conversation, there’s a pretty good chance I’m keeping an eye on text messages and email and will get back to you just as fast as my two little thumbs will carry me.