Friday 18 January 2013

Thought Picnic: The molds of bureaucracy

A mold
Bureaucracies are a strange life form, a system of well laid out processes that never seem to engage clockwork efficiency of alacrity or urgency.
Like mold, it takes away fervency or freshness leaving a footprint of lethargy, inertia and boredom as time ticks away as if it has no function of measurement than an abyss of nothingness clawing in darkness.
Those who people it
Yet, agents and agencies desire the omnipresence of bureaucracy to ensure that those who depend on it are introduced to the fact that they are powerful, they have responsibilities and they move on a whim except when coerced from above to do what could have been done long before without fuss.
Yet, we wait, almost helpless, almost hopeless and almost listless that a time will come when bureaucracy moving as it might be at a speed that makes drying paint look instantaneous, bureaucracy will finally respond to why it was put in place to fulfil all righteousness and to give the needlessly engaged a sense of purpose.
Complicate the simple with ease
You have to ask why what is seemingly easy to do is made unnecessarily complicated, inscrutable and impossible to action immediately, if not for each little person in the bureaucratic workflow to engage in the power-play of self-importance to the detriment of the organisation at large.
Nowhere was it self-evident than when I visited two banks to open accounts. In the first, I had to book an appointment for the next day, go through tens of questions, sign forms to the point that my fingers bled ink into the cuneiform of my signature and yet will wait days to be able to access the account for business.
The second just required a walk-in on a Saturday afternoon, I was seeing an advisor in 10 minutes and within 30 minutes, I had a bank card and my account was live for transactions, just like that.
It goes without saying that there is probably a century of history between the first and the second bank which is nimble, modern and streamlined to eliminate the encumbrance of bureaucratic time-wasting pretending to back-office operations.
Times change but not for that
What seems well-oiled to whoever set up that system does not really fit into the generally instantaneous gratification that we all have acquired through the shortness of attention spans that has become our way of life by reason of competition for our skill and subservience to some greater or lesser cause.
There might be use for mold as there is use for bureaucracy if you are part of it rather than depending on it.
One learns patience before aggravation, calm before disquiet and acquiescence before complaint when faced with immotile bureaucracy, we are forced to find the kind of inducement that will set a bureaucracy off like an avalanche towards the solution – by which time, a lesson is learnt, no improvements are made and the next person down the line succumbs to the throes of that wonderfully tortuous wringer called bureaucracy – it is just the way we have always done things, you are told.

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