In my little corner of the Giant Bureaucratic Organization, very few pieces of paper ever move further than one’s own desk without passing through one or more layers of review. These reviews are almost the very definition of what it means to exist within the bureaucracy – the very reason the term “paper pusher” came into existence.
It’s hard enough to move a single piece of paper, say something as simple as a memo. The complexity and convolutions involved in getting something larger – say a document of several dozens of pages is mind boggling. It’s a herculean feat of bureaucratic mastery involving three layers of review at a bare minimum. I’ve personally seen the number of reviewers go as high as 14 on a single document. I’ve heard stories that the numbers can grow even larger as one progresses through echelons higher than reality towards the beating, five-sided heart of our bureaucratic empire. Each and every non-concur along the way carries the risk of sending you back to the starting block to try again.
I’m not saying that reviews are entirely pointless or without merit. In some cases I’d even argue that they are absolutely necessary. When it becomes the reviews themselves that drive the process rather what is being reviewed, I can’t help but believe that there is a flaw in the system. Then again, I’m a poor simple history major who learned to read original source documents that may have virtually no relationship to standard English usage so what the hell do I know.
They’re calling for shit weather tomorrow morning. On a typical day, that would have been the sign to drag my laptop home in hopes that there was some combination of liberal leave or a closure called by the Destructive Weather Team. Having another day to work at home uninterrupted by 30 ringing phones and eight or ten pop up meetings would be a godsend in terms of getting some actual work done.
Sadly, I’m the guy who’s supposed to run the meeting tomorrow – which means I need to be there to flip the slides. Because it’s not an official meeting unless someone flips slides… and we certainly can’t expect people who come to a meeting to print off their own slides or bring their own laptop so they could see the slides. If we could count on either of those things there’s no part of what needs talked about tomorrow that needs my physical presence in a blandly decorated conference room.
We’re stuck in some kind of bizarre world where we want everyone to be prepared to work from wherever they happen to be, but make in next to impossible to do so. Where it is possible, we make the processes and procedures painful to the point where most find the option unattractive.
Me? I’m a contrarian and poker of people with pointy sticks from way back. I’m already turning over plans in my head to slowly drag my team into the 21st century – and prep them for the day when I’ll be leading the discussion while wearing sweats and fuzzy slippers. Until people see working from some place other than your designated spot in the cube farm getting results, I’m afraid the bureaucracy will never get away from it’s favored mode of business as usual. I like to think I’m feisty enough on this point to lead the way by example.
I’m not an expert, not in this field anyway. I am however, due to many years of experience at wading into topic areas where I lack formal education or training, a generalist of remarkably broad scope. I’m good at looking for connections – or for the places where connections should be but aren’t. It’s a knack I have for reading, comprehending, and then synthesizing material into something approximating a coherent and rational bit of information. On my very best day I’m a pretty brilliant analyst. On an average day, I like to think I’m still awfully good, just maybe getting the job done with a little less flourish.
I need to point out in no uncertain terms that what people do with the information once I give it to them isn’t really my field. I’m not a decision maker. I don’t want to be one. What I will do is present you with the best, most coherent information I can pull together in whatever time is allotted for the task. That’s my one iron clad, most absolute guarantee.
Still, though, I need you to always remember one thing. When the information I’m working with is incomplete, wrong, folded, spindled, or mutilated in some way, the results you get are going to be suspect. When the amount of time available doesn’t allow for a full detailed analysis, the results are going to be suspect. Now the good news is I’m always going to present my assessments with those limiting factors highlighted for the world to see. I’m never going to shirk the analysis because it’s too hard, but damned if I can help it when you’re caught up in shitty input leading to shitty results.
Occasionally, without knowing exactly how or why the day just kind of gets completely away from you. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have something to show for a day like that. More often, in my experience, you just suddenly look up, realize the whistle is about to release you from your toil, and find that there’s not much you can point to in the way of good solid results to show for your time.
If I were a business management guru, I’d probably conjecture that it has something to do with disjointed days broken up with too many meetings, (attempted) multi-tasking, the time thief that is email, and the ever present danger of employees lingering a bit too long over their social media accounts. Alas, I’m no guru, but just a guy sitting here at the keyboard so what could I possibly tell you about such things?
Given an option between being a little too busy or a little too bored, I’m apt to choose busy if for no other reason than it does seem to move the day along at least a touch faster. At tis point anything that even gives the impression of getting me back to hearth and home in a more timely manner is a net good overall – even if it’s only illusionary. Sometimes the benevolent lie is good enough.
Three years ago, if I googled myself, I think the blog I was running at the time started showing up somewhere around page five or six of the search results. A few minutes ago I typed my name into the search bar instead of the address bar and ended up googling myself by accident. I swear it’s not something I do on a regular basis. Seriously. I don’t. Honest.
As it turns out, a few years make a difference in the standings and there I am right there as the second listing whenever anyone searches for “Jeffrey Tharp”. Let’s just ignore the reasons why anyone might be doing that for the moment. As it turns out, the #1 Jeffrey Tharp in all of the internet is not yours truly, but rather an orthopedic surgeon based in Ohio. He seems like a good enough doc, rated better than average from what I can see. But still, I lust after his coveted 1st place search result location. Does that give you any indication of how slow a week it’s been? Yes, I’ve had time tonight to sit here and ponder zen and the nature of Google search results.
All I can say, Dr. Jeffrey S. Tharp of Akron, Ohio, is I’m coming for you. Do you hear the footsteps? You’ve probably improved the lives of hundreds and thousands of people with your healing arts, but I’m a go to source of humor, sarcasm, and snarky commentary for at least several people who I can name off the top of my head. I think we can all see why I should be first in the rankings, right? So you can either stand aside gracefully to let me claim my rightful place atop page one, or I’ll be forced to continue blogging five days a week until I simply overwhelm Google with the volume of subpages linked from http://www.jeffreytharp.com. The choice is yours. I know you’ll do the honorable thing.