COB-61: bureaucratic tranquility


Big, immobile stones in a shady, moist atmosphere support a beautiful matrix of moss, lichen, ferns, and other greens. The same is true for organizations and bureaucracy.  Even with the sound of a tremendous waterfall nearby, bureaucrats remain as placid as moss on stone.  There are no better models of peace and tranquility than moss and bureaucracy.

Among key bureaucratic issues this month, Research in Motion (RIM) Senior Management recently had to deal with a panicky open letter from a RIM employee warning of dire dangers for the company.  RIM Senior Management responded:

RIM recently confirmed that it is nearing the end of a major business and technology transition. … it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities. Again, RIM’s management team takes these challenges seriously and is actively addressing the situation.

This response is a model for bureaucratic excellence. The “it has become necessary” phrase has a tranquility that surpasses that of many passive constructions.  Moreover, its referenceless “it” encompasses the cosmos.  Note also that the above text would remain just as effective if RIM were replaced with another organization’s name.  Responses that foster easy re-use make bureaucratic organizations more efficient.

Additional open letters from RIM employees have subsequently appeared.  These letters indicate serious weaknesses in bureaucratic swimming skills:

Whenever something goes wrong (incident, problems, even non-customer impacting) a lengthy and involved process of finger pointing starts, and without fail, a new process is born. And, sadly, since the announcement came out about the financial problems and layoffs, it’s become worse. Many of the managers are saying we need to rely more heavily now than ever on process. To those of us who need to deal with this process, which consumes days of work generating documents that no one will read, it’s an obvious case of CYA on the managers part. If they say ‘but we followed the process!’, they seem to hope their heads won’t be on the line. We are no longer a company that is innovative and energetic, we are drowning in paperwork.

Employees well-trained in bureaucratic swimming will not drown in paperwork.  A good start for such training would be careful study of RIM Senior Management’s model bureaucratic response.

JoelBlog documents an intricately and exquisitely engineered registration process for AT&T DSL.  A commenter explained the secret to this work:

What is called AT&T now is actually SBC, a Baby Bell with a penchant for out-sourcing. SBC bought Cingular, AT&T, Pacific Bell, lots of other companies. … SBC brought with them metric tons of bureaucracy, all running in IE {Internet Explorer}.

If you want to build web forms that fully exploit the special powers of IE, you need to develop massive bureaucratic muscle.

Feral farting camels produce a lot of methane.  Australia’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) has proposed to cull the camels.  Culling farting camels is a common-sense approach to reducing emissions.  A more excellent bureaucracy would have developed attachable bags and a network of collection centers to put that natural gas to use.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats. Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

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