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Friday, August 19, 2011


“They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
...And I don't like anybody very much! ”

There’s August ugly in the Congress and citizens, media and bloggers, students and teachers and facebook, police and crims, workers and management, you name it.

When you get that many groups affected, it’s not them, it’s some kind of social paradigm shift.

What I see is we are all, for better or worse, dealing with new levels of technology, some of it really poorly designed, which can make it harder to do a good job than before we were burdened with all that helpful technology.

Defensive behavior is to huddle down, poking at the busted process, spending long hours on rework and wrong results.

I was recruited to revitalize an important program that affects the public and private sector, and draws support from government, commercial, academic, and not-for-profit sectors. I was recruited because I think it’s important.

The program was being throttled by mindless, useless, creeping administrivia. 

I slashed the reporting, the waiting, and the disappointment, while increasing the immediate benefit for customers, participants, and sponsors. Biggest complaint now is it doesn’t look the same.

As part of the program, I went to a secure installation watching an unending progress prevention protocol, which was getting everyone involved testy. I measured something close to 300% rework from the original plan, zero benefit.

On the way home I stopped at Costco to get some printer ink refilled. The gate guard looked like the people at the other gate. She was operating screens, scanners, and manual apparatus and charged with keeping the riffraff out. I’m sure her systems didn’t work any better than other systems.

But she had one other responsibility I hadn’t seen anywhere else that day.

As I walked through, she said enthusiastically, “Welcome to Costco!” and flashed a pretty good smile. I smiled back, so she smiled more, so I smiled more...and suddenly this was a different, better experience.

It’s not worshiping and worrying the busted process, it is paying attention to the people that gets the results we want. Or as that Kingston Trio litany to unhappiness finishes:

“What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man.”

Ah, wisdom of the ancients!

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Thoughthebrowser said...

Got a call from a reader, "Sure is tough doing our business processes now that the business has shrunk 40%!"
I said, "Shouldn't your business processes shrink 40%?"
He said, "I'll get back to you on that."

Unknown said...


I had a project with an entity that had been spun off from the Federal Government to become a quasi - my assignment was designing a new retirement scheme to replace the retirement program and troublesome provisions they had suffered with as an agency.

After 6 months of interminable meetings, concept drafts, and nods of approval, we got to the final presentation of the new program. As it unfolded the feedback was that we had nailed each and every item that the client wanted in the plan. Imagine our surprise when, at the conclusion of the presentation, the entire room was absolutely silent - absorbed in thought.

After an eternity, the head of the quasi said "this is different than our old program!". The end result is plan which is a duplicate of the Federal plan.

Sometimes the paradigm shift is stymied when reality hits.