Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Allegory

First of all - This is a story about Government.  If everything worked like this, we would all be doomed.
I have found that trying to explain a problem about a process is a futile effort.  Unless you live it, you can't understand the depth of the issues.  It is like trying to describe a bad marriage, a bad job, or living next to the neighbor from hell. 

Hence, the allegory, the relate-able story, a way of generically sharing the misery thanks to Mr. Aesop.

While the specifics may vary, I have dealt with this exact same scenario in my past jobs, more than once.

Once Upon A Time.....

Brad was hired for a new job.  Brad was excited.  He was full of optimism and energy and wanted to do the best job possible to impress his new employer.  

On his first day Brad was led into a room with other employees to learn his first job duties.  The supervisor, Charlie, walked into the room and addressed the 10 employees.  He informed them that there project was to dig a 500 yard trench in order to lay pipe between two buildings.  Outside were a collection of shovels, picks and wheel barrows.  Everyone one take one and they would start digging along the spray painted line between the two buildings. 

Not the greatest job in the world Brad thought, but we all have to start somewhere.  

So the band of employees started digging away at the earth.  By the end of the first day, they had managed to dig a trench about 30 yards long.  

This continued for the next week with varying progress.  The work was back breaking and very tiring.  When Friday came they had completed about 1/3 of the ditch digging process.  Brad was having some second thoughts about the job.  

Upon arriving at the job site the following Monday, Brad parked next to the building that the trench was heading toward.  Much to his astonishment, he found a brand new Back-Hoe parked on the opposite side of the building.  Great! he thought.  We can have this trench dug in 48 hours with this thing. 

Brad walked up to Charlie at the start of the work day and told him about the Back Hoe.  Charlie looked puzzled.  "What is a Back Hoe" he asked.  

"A machine for digging trenches", Brad replied.  

Charlie then explained that they could not use the Back Hoe because; they were assigned to do the job with shovels, he did not know how the Back Hoe worked, and he did not know who the Back Hoe belonged to.  

Brad asked if Charlie could find out if the Back Hoe was available.  Charlie said he would ask, but in the meantime it was back to shovel and wheel barrow time. 

After several days with no response form Charlie, Brad asked around on his lunch break and found that the Back Hoe belonged to his employer, was available to use, but no one knew how to operate it.  Brad took the Back Hoe's manual home that evening, read it and then explained to Charlie the next day that the Back Hoe was available and he knew how to operate it.  

Charlie again looked puzzled and calmly stated that they would continue to use shovels and wheel barrows but would give consideration to using the Back Hoe for the 'next' digging assignment. 

Three weeks later, the trench was completed with manual labor.  

The next work day, Charlie entered the employee meeting room with large boxes of paper and several abacus, which he began to hand out to the workers.  "Today we will be doing financial analysis.", he told the crowd. 

What has Brad learned?

1) That supervisors seldom think outside the box, they go with what they know. 

2) It is more important to manage people than to produce results. 

3) Supervisors are seldom problem solvers.  They see themselves as a motivators, which is more important to their self image.

4) It is naive to believe that people in authority will use the tools at hand to the best of their ability. 

5) Beware of the Charlies.