We Will Overcome: some recent workarounds…

I work a lot in organisations which I think could work more effectively. Indeed, it seems almost like a mantra that “organisations are dysfunctional”.

Often it is in little ways.

I had a meeting with a client the other day at their newly refurbished location. The client had wedged the door open. Everyone did that he said, because the door had an automatic closer on it, to keep it shut. But everyone liked to have their doors open, so they could see what was going on outside their offices and catch up with people as they walked past. Since they are fire doors – it is an old building – because everyone had their doors open all the time, closers were fitted to make sure the doors were kept shut. Now everyone wedges their doors open. My client said he was expecting an email any day now outlawing door wedges…

In a different, open-plan office of the same organisation, wherever I look there are reams of printer paper on desks – still wrapped up. Under people’s monitors. On top of their monitor-risers. Everyone uses a pile of paper to raise their monitor to a useable height, because the monitor-risers are too low. This is a great work-around, using an easily available (and recyclable!) material; but it is a lousy use of a stock of paper.

The same organisation has decided to remove individual wastepaper baskets and centralise the waste disposal. Perhaps this cuts costs and helps people recycle more. So now everyone keeps empty, used, paper tea and coffee cups on their desks, which they fill slowly with their daily detritus.

In three different ways, people have come up with ways around solutions imposed by the organisation. People are very resourceful. Even when they shouldn’t have to be…

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One thought on “We Will Overcome: some recent workarounds…

  1. Doug Shaw

    Hi Patrick – these are great little stories thanks for sharing them. You may be interested in this one:

    In carrying out a piece of work on simplification for a customer recently, I charted their organisation for them. You know, who works for who, what they do etc. This is a basic building block which they want (in fact I have found evidence that people have been asking for such a chart since 2008!) and which they can use to support other activities too. File this work in dull and necessary.

    I recently spoke with the board and told them of my progress (whoop dee doo) and they got mildly enthusuastic about it. Two days later the HRD forwarded an email sent by one of the meeting participants to the HRD and another director (hope you are still with me?). This participant was asking the HRD and the other person to check with me and make sure the work I am doing is checked against policy y by subcommitee z before publication. This person could have just phoned me and asked something like “Can you please just get Bert to check out your finished work before it goes live?”

    Bureacracy gone mad! At least I’m beginning to understand why this thing that people have been asking for for three years hasn’t been done yet :)

    Reply

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