Thursday 3 May 2012

A Parable On Government

Via Theo Spark, a story which could easily be adapted to describe any number of national or local government departments. The tale of the night watchman.
Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. 
Congress said, "Someone may steal from it at night." 

So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job. 
Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" 

So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, and one person to do time studies. 
Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?" 

So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people. One was to do the studies and one was to write the reports. 
Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" 

So they created two positions: a time keeper and a payroll officer then hired two people. 
Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?" 

So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an Administrative Officer, Assistant Administrative Officer, and a Legal Secretary. 
Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one year and we are $918,000 over budget, we must cut back" 

... so they laid-off the night watchman.
Quite apt, I thought, for a day when we're voting on which set of clowns will be ballsing everything up for the next four years.


Lysistrata Eleftheria said...

Very very good. I've read many variations on this over the years, but it's still oh so true. 

Mr A said...

This is sadly very true.  I worked in a City public library for a few years and just before I left there was a service evaluation because the County Boss had run the service into the ground (as she had the previous service - needless to say she got a golden handshake for ruining that place as well as one for ruining our county and the last thing I heard she'd got yet another 6 figure post to do the same elsewhere.... but that's another story).

Anyway, the management consultants they called in were astonished that there were eight levels of management above me.  EIGHT!  I was management in the actual City Library.  Then above me there was the North and South County Managers.  Above them there were the North and South Regional Managers.  Above them was the County Manager and above them was the County Library Manager.  There were also County level Managers for ICT, Social Inclusion, Children and something else.  Then on top of them there was the Community and Libraries Manager (the one who was constantly rewarded for being an incompetent fuckwit).  Of course, they were all on £40,000 - £150,000 a year (depending on where they were on the scale) and their very presence meant nothing got done as we would pass on queries (like what to do about chavs, who we were supposed to be "inclusive" towards, scaring off customers and damaging computers) and each layer was scared of making a decision so they would pass it on to the person above and on and on until finally, The Fuckwit, who was not only stupid but also utterly out of touch, made a decision and then the decision got filtered back down to us, layer by layer, several months later.  The only time things got slightly better was when the layers were whittled by illness, which was most of the time thankfully as at any one time between a third or half of them were off on full pay because of depression or anxiety or maternity leave.

Of course the Service was fucked financially and had so many layers because of past service reviews where management had decided that they couldn't possibly sack other management so bullshit nothing posts were created for them to keep them happy.  In the meantime, we were told to turn off lights and print on both sides of paper to save money.  We were also chronically undermanned on the ground, to the point where some smaller libraries in inner city areas were manned by one 60 something woman, coping with hordes of chavs, scum, addicts and weirdos, at all times of day and night (because of course, staying open till 9pm "aided social inclusion").

There is SO much money that could be saved if someone just went into these places and wiped out these non-jobs.  Simply telling the Management to save money just results in the service being cut and the people who actually do the work being cut.

Mr A said...

Just another example.  I met a surgeon at a dinner party the other day, and she said that 15 years ago she worked in a team of 9 surgeons with one manager.  Now, she said there were 8 managers and 3 surgeons.  She was at a meeting and the subject of budget cuts came up.  Their solution?  "Well, we could lose another surgeon post..."

This sort of shit is rife in the Public Sector.  Seriously, you could cut the damn thing by 70% and still have the same level of service - probably better as there's be fewer malingerers, fuckwits, retards and drones clogging everything up.

Unfortunately, the sorts of people who can make this happen (ie the politicians) are the sort of people who are drawn to big bureaucratic organisations and all the self-important management jargon, focus groups and committees that are the problem in the first place.

Even in my current job, what I do is as divorced as much as is possible from the management who get in the way.  We generate the money that basically keeps the thing running yet we are denied the resources (just rooms and computers etc) which we could use to increase our income (and the demand is there!  We have waiting lists!) because they are too busy running their pet "Eco Awareness Team" projects or spending all their working days meeting managers from other places discussing how they can attain bullshit Matrix Certifications or Investors in People kitemarks that only they, and other managers, give a shit about.

Gah, this sounds like a Daily Mail rant.  But we're fucked.  We really are, as these people aren't just in the Public Sector.  Thanks to their having the levers of power they inflict their bullshit, regulations and red tape on the private sector, too.

Jesus wept....

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yep, I had mostly the NHS in mind. ;)

Cuts should reduce management yet it always means fewer nurses, or the radical reduction we see in quality of the front line hospital personnel. NEVER must anti-everything tax drains be denied funding, mind. 

Lyn Ladds said...

In 1994 when my grandfather was in hospital, for the first time in his entire life (he was 95) my father was amazed that there were just 4 nurses/auxilliaries for a 30 bed ward and 8 management and clerical posts for the same ward.  The nurses were working double shifts due to staff shortages and sickness.

Nothing changes, at least not for the better.  The only solution, in my book, is to bring back the old style matrons who had both the medical training and knowledge as well as the ability to run wards efficiently.  Plus, they were on the ground where they needed to be to see for themselves where problems arose and would deal with them at the time.  Even the doctors jumped when Matron spoke! 

That was the good old days when the NHS actually worked and achieved what it was intended to achieve.

These bloody bureaucrats who are so puffed up with their own importance wouldn't even know what to do with a Band-Aid if they cut their finger!

Lyn Ladds said...

By the way, they killed my grandfather through total incompetenece - not the nurses, but the doctors.

tomsmith said...

Harking back to some golden age of so-called functional public services is not any kind of answer. They got the way they are because they are funded through taxation which is collected by force. If they were paid by customers for providing services then many of the problems would disappear.