Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bureaucratic Techniques

Just a quick post about some of my favorite bureaucratic techniques for confounding pesky incompetent wretches or bringing bad projects to a halt.

Cmdrsue has already talked about the Unexpected Bureaucratic Strike ("which is where you can reach up a sleeve and produce three files and multiple emails to substantiate your position"). This technique is useful for not only providing job security (a bureaucrat that can put information out of his/her butt at a moment's notice is extremely valuable) but also to shock bring bad ideas to a screeching halt.

Somewhat related to this is Instant Recitation, or the ability to recite, on cue, chapter and verse of obscure laws to back up your position. This is a technique I wish I had, but I'm working on. Few people actually check these laws, but if you can pull this off with enough authority, they will believe anything.

This is not to be confused with Institutional Total Recall, which is the ability to explain, at length, all the precedents for why we do what we do. Often the explanation involves the organization getting sued as the punchline, but it always involves a looong, rambling story, preferably involving people that no longer work there.

Another side is, of course, the Dinosaur Strategy, i.e., doing nothing and waiting for the problem to go away. The dinosaurs had a good run, 150 million years or so, and bureaucracy can take at least that long. I'm sure that there's still some Allosaurus out there waiting for the response to the amended corrections to form 12645-A, regarding relocation in the event of asteroid strike. This strategy is particularly effective for those without a lot of time or energy to spare.

Finally, for today, is the Camel Technique, or, the ability to retain large amounts of liquid in your bladder through excrutiatingly dull, but important meetings. In important meetings, if you can get the participants to feel that, should they leave the room, a decision will be made without them, participants will often succumb to their natural urges to pee, and agree to any decision that gets them out to the bathroom. Last one standing wins the meeting.

Today's agenda involves 4 Strikes, 7 Dinosaurs, and a Camel.

1 comment:

CmdrSue said...

Hee-hee. You're talking my language.

Regarding Instant Recitation, I worked at the mall for an import store when I was in college. One of our assistant managers got so sick of people (what a clientele) switching price tags and then saying, "But you HAVE to sell it to me for the price marked!" that she memorized the state code that said that no, she didn't. If they argued she pulled out a copy and slapped it on the counter.

Regarding the Dinosaur Strategy, I have something similar called 'Benign Neglect'. I can't remember where I picked it up from, but it is sometimes the best way to handle a situation/project/person. Yes, sometimes if you ignore a problem it really WILL go away.

Another one I'm familiar with is 'Strategic Incompetence'. The first person I heard use the phrase was my sister and that was about 20 years ago. I think I saw it in a Dilbert in recent years, though, but with the exact same meaning. If they give you a job you don't want to do, use some Strategic Incompetence to make sure they never ask you to do it again. This technique is not for the faint-hearted. Personally I'm too uptight to have ever done it successfully, but I've seen it done stunningly (if not purposefully) well.