The Process Fable

Once upon a time, an organisation which was based outside of the capital, opened a Shiny New Office in the heart of the capital city.  It was a period of change and within the Shiny New Office was based a new part of the organisation with a remit to develop a new stream of business.    The Shiny New Office was particularly fine and attractive and the organisation’s leaders became concerned about the number of employees who were applying for Security Passes to access the site.  “Something must be done!” they cried and decreed that all applications to have access to the Shiny New Office must be approved by the Senior Executive Committee.

Now, the Senior Executive Council met every month and during this time of change the organisation had many new staff and relied heavily on short-term contractors.  A great many people who now worked in the Shiny New Office were without a Security Pass.  They found that they could not move between floors without a Security Pass.  They found they could not go to the bathroom without a Security Pass.  And they found a way around the problem.  People would smilingly hold the doors open for one another, they would borrow each other’s working Security Passes, they would wait patiently or knock on the doors and follow each other through the security doors.  In time they realised that the doors, if closed gently, would stay open on their latches so that colleagues would have access to the building without inconvenience.  People found a way to be effective in their work.

In fact, the Shiny New Office now had no effective security.  However, they did have a RULE and it was good and the leaders were content.

The answer to an organisation’s issues is very seldom an additional process or an extra level of governance.  Surprisingly often, the answer is common sense and making existing systems work.  A great source of poor responses is government.  Perhaps this is because announcing a  “new law” looks like ACTION and is preferable to admitting that the root cause is the ineffective application of existing laws.  Examples of this are many: The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, The Firearms Act 1997 and The Food Safety Act 1990 are all examples of the “Something must be done!” mentality.  All are laws conceived in haste, as a response to public outcry, which have done nothing to address the root cause. Government makes great case studies because of the publicity but large organisations (sufficiently large that the decision makers get divorced from reality) are replete with similar inanities.

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