COB-83: every detail matters in bureaucratic work

The relationship between the forest and the trees is widely mis-perceived.  Every forest is made up of trees.  Without trees, there is no forest.  Stay focused on the trees.  After all, if you fail to see a tree, you could run into it and get a bloody nose.

points showing work of punctator

Just like every tree in the forest matters, details are essential in bureaucratic work.  Remember the celebrated bureaucratic career of Berechiah ha-Nakdan.  He was a thirteenth-century Jewish intellectual worker living in France or England.  Probably in part because writing materials were expensive, ancient Hebrew texts were written without vowels.  Missing vowels, like incompletely filled-in forms, pain bureaucrats to the very soft outer skin of the souls of their feet (they spend most of their time sitting).

Berechiah ha-Nakdan evidently worked in a department that addressed the problem of missing vowels in Hebrew texts.  He was a “punctator,” probably a Senior Managing Punctator (SMP).  Punctators added points (dots and other small marks) below the letters of Hebrew texts so that the vowels would be fully specified.  A page of Hebrew text containing a thousand letters could easily require two or three thousand additional individual points.  Thirteenth-century punctators faced a crushing burden of important bureaucratic work.  But like many heroic bureaucrats through the ages, they sat through the challenge.  Berechiah ha-Nakdan’s monumental work as a SMP was recognized in his very name: “ha-Nakdan” means “the punctator.”  Other than Ali Kazma the Rubber Stamper, no one else in history has made for himself a name as distinguished as Berechiah ha-Nakdan.

In other bureaucratic issues this month, the Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) of the European Union (EU) has established new rules that make importing giraffes easier.   The EU’s SCOFCAH should be commended for this tall achievement.

Jona Lendering and Bill Thayer at New at LacusCurtius and Livius explain that an elderly historian in 2040 will find that the humanities departments have closed.  Closing departments is a serious challenge for bureaucrats struggling to hang on to their positions.  Lendering and Thayer see the closing of humanities departments as a self-inflicted catastrophe:

The historian will conclude that the humanities had committed suicide.  Still, there had been people, inside and outside the universities, who had done their best.  People who had refused to join the academic rat race, who had not been interested in the length of their publication list, who were really interested in the dialog with the larger audience.

The job of bureaucrats in universities is to lengthen their publication list by producing documents.  Producing documents has no relation to any audience whatsoever.  That’s why academic journals are distributed in a limited number of paper copies.  University bureaucrats should not be punished for following their job descriptions.

When Andrew Mason was fired as Groupon CEO this past February, he wrote a farewell memo.  That’s standard bureaucratic practice.  Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs posted his standard letter on the innovative, interactive text platform rapgenius.  This new platform threatens corporate-speak.  For example, Mason wrote:

I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today.

That’s a bad enough breach of standards.  But then Marc Andreessen, a leading funder of ventures hostile to bureaucrats, added an annotation:

Over the last 20 years it has become customary in business for executives to claim to be “resigning to spend more time with my family” when they have actually been fired. It has become such a cliche that it is now a sort of running joke in corporate-speak.

(The additional subtext to the joke is that most executives are not liked by their families, who would prefer that they not spend more time at home and try to get them into a new job as quickly as possible.)

Bureaucrats must resist these sorts of textual innovations.  As newspaper journalists have repeatedly reported, nothing can replace the feel of paper.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-82: in trouble, double down on bureaucracy

Back in 2005, the Internet advertising company DoubleClick needed a major business restructuring.  Leading executives David Rosenblatt and Neal Mohan made a brilliant strategic decision: focus for six months on creating a PowerPoint presentation.  Business Insider breathlessly reports their accomplishment:

The result: an epic, 400- to 500-page PowerPoint document.  Several sources who have seen this document, or participated in its creation, say that even today you can see traces of it in similar documents outlining Google’s current product road map in display advertising.

David Rosenblatt and Neal Mohan are now regarded as top-ranked business executives.  Mohan reportedly received $100 million in stock from Google to remain at the head of Google’s display advertising business.  More importantly, both Rosenblatt and Mohan have recently been approved to be nominated to be candidates for preliminary consideration for induction into the Bureaucratic Hall of Fame.  If you aspire to such eminence, you’ve got to lengthen your PowerPoint presentations.

IBM CEO Virginia Rometty provides a case study of the wrong way to lead a bureaucracy.  After a poor IBM earnings report, Rometty addressed IBMers in a “five-minute internal video message.”  Five minutes!  She might as well be having a chat with the cashier in the grocery store at rush hour.  Nothing can be accomplished with only five minutes of talk.

But it gets worse.  Rometty ordered the storied IBM bureaucracy to move faster.  She did that by establishing a new rule: “If a client has a request or question, IBM must respond within 24 hours.”  Establishing one new rule isn’t good leadership to get employees moving faster.  Rometty should have inspired IBMers with a torrent of new rules.  That’s what a Bureaucratic Hall of Famer would have done, after formulating a strategic plan.

bureaucratic drone awaiting guidance from management

Australian Media CEO Greg Hywood knows the value of editing.  Hywood recently decided to layoff 82 subeditors.  No bureaucrats are more essential than a news organization’s subeditors.  The Columbia Journalism Review has incisively investigated this important story.  A leaked document documents that Hywood himself benefited from subediting.  Here’s the details of the sensational embarrassment.  An original paragraph in Hywood’s memo:

After careful consideration of the arguments from staff, publishers and editors, I can now announce the following decisions, which I am satisfied will meet the strategic imperative to invest in the creation of high-quality editorial content by reducing costs in the production process.

The subeditor’s editing edited the internal paragraph into the outie:

After careful consideration of the consultations between staff, publishers and editors, we have now made the following decisions – decisions which I believe will preserve our continued delivery of high quality editorial content and allow us to meet the strategic imperative of investing in more reporters, writers and training – but requires the outsourcing of sub-editing roles.

Stick a fork into it, the news industry is finished, and democracy is done for.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-81: why nothing gets done

A common complaint about bureaucracy is that nothing ever gets done.  That’s not bureaucrats’ fault.  Zeno of Eleo, a Greek who lived about 2450 years ago, proved that no project can achieve its goal.  Zeno’s insight was that if each day you do half of the remaining work on project, you will need an infinite number of days to finish any project.  Zeno probably worked as a clerk in a major sheep-management firm.  He understood bureaucratic realities.

Committees for millennia have been meeting to establish a program for figuring out how to finish a project.  The growth of global bureaucracy offers a glimmer of hope.  World-wide collaboration through the United Nations brings together an unprecedented concentration of committees, meetings, and documents.  Innovative approaches, such as each day doing a third or a fourth or a fifth or …. of work remaining on a project, are being exhaustively tested to determine is they can yield a finished project in a finite number of days.

The United Nations’ High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) is block-heading the effort to establish a roadmap for finishing a project.  After 23 preliminary sessions, the HLCM turned to physicists’ recognition of the asymmetry of matter and antimatter.  HLCM pursued this innovative insight with a non-paper.  The non-paper observes:

At its 24th Session in September 2012, the High Level Committee on Management {HLCM} called for the development of a Strategic Plan to guide its work for the next three to five years … The HLCM Retreat scheduled for 14-15 January 2013 would build on these consultations, paving the way for the development of a Strategic Plan.

The HLCM’s non-paper is a key step for building on the consultations that are paving the way for developing a Strategic Plan for establishing a roadmap for finishing a project.

doing chores

In other bureaucratic issues this month, the Cyrus Cylinder is on exhibit at the Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC.  The Cyrus Cylinder is an innovative medium for communicating a bureaucratic document within Cyrus’s vast Persian empire.  The Cyrus Cylinder is normally on file at the British Museum.  British Museum Director Neil McGregor has insightfully observed:

Unlike most empires of the period, which were based around rivers, Cyrus’s was a “road empire,” stretching thousands of miles, said McGregor, and also the first “multilingual empire.” It also had a civil service: “You can’t run this kind of an empire without a great bureaucracy.”

Any kind of great organization depends on a great bureaucracy.

Recent research is highlighting the importance of bureaucrats throughout history.  Bureaucrats, not slaves, erected the Egyptian pyramids.  The bureaucrats who did such extraordinary work were far from “fat-cat bureaucrats.”  Additional research on ancient Egypt has revealed the death-inducing circumstances in which the bureaucrats, including local middle management, worked:

although the cultural level of the age was extraordinary, the anthropological analysis of the human remains reveals the population in general and the governors – the highest social class – lived in conditions in which their health was very precarious, on the edge of survival.

Little is given to bureaucrats, and much is asked of them.

Evernote founder and entrepreneur Phil Libin displayed appalling stupidity in a recent interview.  Libin described his management priorities thus:

“It’s really about how quickly you can make decisions and how relentlessly you battle encroaching corporate stupidity,” he adds.

“It’s like you are locked in a battle against the natural forces of corporate bureaucracy – the things that just want to seep in and make everything stupid. It’s difficult to fight that – but it’s fun.”

Bureaucrats produce more notes than the rest of the world combined.  Evernote should embrace bureaucracy, not fight it.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-80: Chaucer was a bureaucrat

Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived in fourteenth-century London, is widely known as the Father of English literature and the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages.  Chaucer should be widely known as a highly proficient bureaucrat.

After early work collecting and inventorying scrap metal, Chaucer studied law.  He then received a job as Valet de Chambre (VDC) in King Edward III’s bureaucracy.  As VDC, he reported to the Groom of the Privy and Groom of the Stool.  These privy officials helped to care for the King’s daily personal bodily needs.  Privy and stool work remains a mainstay of modern bureaucratic jobs.

commode managed by groom of the stool

Evidently recognizing Chaucer skills in keeping relevant items moving smoothly, the King in 1374 awarded Chaucer a merit bonus.  This bonus was not merely a lump-sum cash award, but an ongoing boon: “a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life.”  Chaucer apparently already had expertise in ports.  In 1374. Chaucer was promoted to Comptroller of the Customs for the port of London.  Chaucer remained in that position for twelve years.   Good bureaucrats themselves tend to stick hardily in place.

Chaucer subsequently continued to work in royal bureaucracy.   Chaucer’s subsequent jobs included Clerk of the King’s Works (managing the King’s building projects), Keeper of the Lodge at the King’s Park in Feckenham, and Deputy Forester in the Royal Forest of North Petherton, Somerset.  Chaucer retired in 1394 on a generous pension.  By that time he should have already received a twenty-year service pin, which apparently has been lost.

The importance of Chaucer’s bureaucratic positions is readily apparently.   Yet during these years of weighty bureaucrat responsibility, Chaucer also produced an enormous pile of English literature.  That literature is cherished to this day.  Chaucer’s bureaucratic work deserves similar recognition.

In other bureaucratic issues this month, the Harvard Business Review blog reviews a Davos panel on online education.  Larry Summers offered an important insight:

It’s important to remember that we’re not so good at understanding the subtleties of environments that make them attractive to people. Look at football for example. One way to watch a game is to sit on a cold bench with no good food and bad bathrooms, the other is in your own living room, with replay, and food you like at your convenience. And then ask yourself — which would you guess people pay for? Which do people cheer for? You’d get it wrong. There are aspects of bringing people together in groups that we can’t quite understand and judge.

That insight helps to rationalize current educational institutions and other leading bureaucracies.

Bureaucrats in British Columbia have worked heroically to implement reversing political decisions.  CBC News explains that “a team of bureaucrats spent the last 10 months working 80-hour weeks with no extra pay” to implement the harmonized sales tax (HST)   They then put in a huge effort to re-implement the old provincial sales tax (PST):

the normally faceless and silent bureaucrats … toiled for the past four years to help introduce the ill-fated HST, only to preside over its merciless burial.

Those same people then dutifully resurrected the old PST, a task the usually publicity-phobic civil servants say was an ordeal and an accomplishment of near biblical proportions.

A team of 14 bureaucrats, including analysts, auditors and legal experts, hunkered down through the HST’s introduction and death and then through the rebirth of the old, but remodelled PST, which hasn’t been redrafted in 60 years.

Bureaucrats’ job is not to question why, but to do and die.  Take of moment of silence to honor bureaucratic sacrifices.

In Ottawa, the mayor has awarded ten medals to top city bureaucrats.  The award recipients are well-respected, diligent public servants.  There are many such public servants in government bureaucracies around the world.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-79: hold your memo high

bureaucrat, Tang Dynasty, ChinaWhen entering a meeting room, well-trained bureaucrats always hold a document in front of themselves.  The position of the document relative to the bureaucrat’s ventral surface depends on the importance of the document.  Unimportant documents are held low.  Important documents are held high.  So if you consider a memo that you have prepared for a meeting to be highly important, walk into the meeting holding your memo high above your head.

In other bureaucratic issues this month, Ben Horowitz at ben’s blog describes “how to minimize politics in your company.”  His central point is “build strict processes for potentially political issues and do not deviate.”  Put more simply, build a strong bureaucracy.  Horowitz is a leading entrepreneur and venture capitalist.  Even he recognizes the value of bureaucracy.

At McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Christopher Mah presents the Middle Manager’s Oath.  All middle managers should affirm this oath to make the world a better place.  The oath robustly upholds the value of bureaucratese, also known as jargon: “Jargon is not meaningless as long as it is strategic, measurable, and scalable.”  That’s a game-changing declaration.

The Independence Hall Association (IHA) developed and maintains a U.S. history and civics website.  IHA was established in Philadelphia in 1942.  IHA’s age and bureaucratic history indicate that it’s a bureaucratic organization.  Nonetheless, IHA’s webpage entitled “who are the bureaucrats?” concerns only U.S. federal government workers.  It deserves credit for an inclusive treatment of the federal government workforce:

Vince and Larry, U.S. Department of Transportation crash test dummies, have been used in ad campaigns encouraging motorists to wear seatbelts and discouraging drunk driving. The Department of Transportation is instrumental in enforcing regulations regarding automobiles, railroads, and aviation.

Contrary to the scope of IHA’s web page, the vast majority of bureaucrats are not part of the federal government workforce.  Bureaucrats shuffle papers in the private sector, fill out forms in non-profit organizations, and help to ensure that proper procedures are followed in nursery schools, libraries, local planning departments, state commissions, and many other organizations.  Wherever there are desks and paper, bureaucrats will be found.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-78: customer experience exhancements

This Carnival of Bureaucrats (COB) is committed to customer-experience excellence.   Some organizations focus on customer service.  However, as a result of a thorough, multi-year mission-statement review process, COB has adopted a more comprehensive framework for managing its customer interactions with the goal of producing customers who not only meet or exceed metrics for customer service standards established for cross-business evaluation and planning, now under the responsibility of the Customer Service Evaluation and Planning Division, but also who are “delighted customers,” in accordance with the definitions adopted in the Final Report of the Commission for Re-Imagining the COB Mission.  To further deepen and expand the “delighting” of customers, Customer Service Representatives have been promoted to Customer Experience Representatives and given added responsibility for a 10-point customer “delighting” checklist.  The Consolidated Facilities Division (CFD) has been given company-wide responsibility for removing lights in customer waiting rooms.  CFD will thus also contribute to raising the disappointing scores received in last year’s sustainable-green washing and painting initiative.

As a result of the corporate restructuring necessary to achieve this new, comprehensive program of service goals centered on customer experience, this month’s COB is rescheduled to next month.  You can enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-77: meeting with management

ruler's messenger: linguist's staff

Many bureaucrats dread meeting with first-level management, to say nothing of meeting with second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on levels of higher management.  In actual meeting practice, any level of management means a person filling a position.  In other words, the boss is probably a human being.  And also a bureaucrat just like you.

So there’s no need to scratch your head and puzzle over what to say to a boss.  Just tell the boss that you will do exactly whatever she tells you to do.   “What exactly do you want me to do?”  “How exactly should I do that?”  To be a good bureaucrat, you must sincerely believe that your job is to do exactly what you are told to do.  You shouldn’t be afraid of management.  Schedule as many meetings as possible with management.  If you do only what management tells you to do in the way management tells you to do it, then your performance reflects management’s performance.  You will have no risk of getting a poor performance evaluation from management.

In other bureaucratic issues this month, Mark Cuban, despite his appalling lack of bureaucratic credentials, provides an incisive analysis of facebook’s business:

Its a time waster. That’s not to say we don’t engage, we do. We click, share and comment because it’s mindless and easy. But for some reason FB {facebook} doesn’t seem to want to accept that it’s best purpose in life is as a huge time suck platform that we use to keep up with friends, interests and stuff. I think that they are over thinking what their network is all about.

In other words, wasting time creates billions of dollars in business value, over-thinking is a major strategic danger, and facebook shouldn’t try to change what it does.  These lessons are not just for facebook’s business planning department.  They are for everyone.

Neal Stephenson at the World Policy Institute offers some encouraging news about the slowing of innovation.  He observes:

Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one—or at least vaguely similar—and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.

In the era before Google (BG), “Been Tried Before” (BTB) could be used to help stop new ideas, but often BTB was not considered credible.   For example, in 74 BG the company C-T-R changed its name to IBM.   C-T-R had a distinguished bureaucratic record that included developing a time clock that recorded a worker’s arrival and departure time on a paper tape.  IBM in the BG era went on to develop personal computers that have tended to devalue bureaucratic hierarchies.   In the era after Google (AG), IBM bureaucrats can much more effectively assert BTB to stop products like the PC.

Judy Sims reports that newspaper executives aren’t supporting innovation.  That’s probably because they have heard the news that innovation is slowing.   You can see an example of this slowing of innovation at the Bangor Daily News (Maine), where two anchors made a weighty on-air resignation (“Take this job and shove it: Fed-up Bangor TV anchors quit on air”) before they had a chance to sit in the new anchor stage set designed for the news station.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-76: keep sitting

challenges of a desk job

Jeroen Eisenga’s powerful performance art film, Springtime 2009-11, offers profound insights into the bureaucratic condition.  Eisenga sat at a desk while 250,000 bees gradually enveloped his body.  If he had stood up, he probably would have gotten stung.  That’s exactly like the situation in many bureaucrats’ desk jobs.

An essential bureaucratic skill is being able to sit through all kinds of changes and difficult conditions.  Sitting through meetings is good practice, but the importance of sitting goes far beyond meetings.  A place in a bureaucratic organization is a seat.  Keep sitting in your seat, or you risk losing your place.  Kids and other non-professionals who have to sit for a long period often start to squirm.  Top bureaucrats don’t squirm even after sitting for years.  They placidly and implacably meditate upon the next report to be produced and the best color for its cover sheet.

In other bureaucratic issues this month, Michael Rosenblum observes that Twitter is wrecking the elections.  Debates are now focused on producing good 140-character tweets.  The political situation was much better in the past:

When Lincoln and Douglass debated for the Illinois Senate seat they engaged in 7 debates. Each lasted for hours. Each candidate presented their position for 60 minutes, followed by a 90 minute rebuttal and a 30 minutes rejoinder. Plus cross-questioning.

Audiences sat in rapt attention throughout the entire 7 hour event.

The fundamental problem today is lack of bureaucratic education in the schools and colleges.  Kids should be trained to sit through a series of lengthy lectures.  A seven-hour debate is roughly equivalent to seven lecture courses in a day.  Most kids now have less than five courses per semester.  The need for reform is obvious.

Scott Adams, who writes a serialized graphic novel on bureaucratic procedures, also authors a blog filled with new ideas and imaginative thinking.  That stark inconsistency should make you suspicious.  Adams apparently does not have the natural disposition to provide true insight into bureaucracy.

Despite numerous programs to lessen discrimination against bureaucrats, much work remains to be done.  Consider the situation in the 31st century:

Bureaucrats in the 31st century are usually members of the Central Bureaucracy handling financial, legal, and other business matters in New New York, or Product Inspectors at Mom’s Friendly Robot Company working in Tijuana, although this is less common.

These people are often discriminated by others, and have been described as “faceless bean counters, who blend into the woodwork”. There is a numerous list of bureaucrats, and Hermes Conrad (bureaucrat grade 36) is the most wellknown of them.

This situation highlights the vital importance of the Carnival of Bureaucrats.  We intend to continue defending and celebrating bureaucrats through the 31st century and beyond.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-75: bureaucratic leisure

Bureaucrats who are able to leave the office in the evening or on a weekend typically have to spend time washing their working sets of blue shirts and brown pants (suits are usually reserved for Power-Point presentation days).  But if a bureaucrat manages to find a few hours of leisure, she is likely to spend it reading a book with “cubicle” in the title.  Cubicle Warfare, Pimp my CubicleAnother Day in Cubicle ParadiseQuilts in My Cubicle, and The Cubicle are all worth reading (Escape from Cubicle Nation is inferior literature, suitable only for the ignorant, and not recommended).  Recently Jay Giess’ Death By Cubicle has been named a finalist for the prestigious Putzer Prize.  Giess’ novel is the first book with “cubicle” in the title to become a finalist for a Putzer.

Death By Cubicle is a romantic comedic murder mystery thriller.  At the bureaucratic level, it represents the progress from six sigma bureaucratic business management strategy to seven sigma, and from 360-degree bureaucratic performance reviews to 720-degree (a highly experienced bureaucrat in the book explored 1080-degree reviews, but recommended against them).  The Carnival of Bureaucrats’ literature reviewer declared that she felt profound personal anagnorisis from this passage in Death By Cubicle:

I turned on my computer and let my fingers go through the log-in process.  They had done it enough times that they didn’t need me, but it didn’t work.  I watched them as they went through it a second time.  Everything was just right, but I couldn’t log in.

Automatic somatic performance and disassociation of sensibility profoundly unmask habitus of bureaucrats, our literature reviewer explained.  Our assistant sub-editor said that this passage describes a recurring nightmare he has.  I’ve got nightmares like that, too, said our associate managing editor. The only fate more horrifying than being terminated from your bureaucratic job is being terminated without going through the proper Human Resources Department protocol.  You just can’t log in.  Your access badge stops working.  Nightmare!  Possible psychiatric treatment: stay logged in, and don’t leave the office.  But if you ever leave the office and have some leisure time, you would enjoy reading Jay Geiss’ excellent Death By Cubicle.

In other important bureaucratic news, this month is the 75th anniversary of the Carnival of Bureaucrats.  According to the useful “Anniversary Color List for 1st to 75th Anniversary Party Themes,” the official color for this anniversary is diamond white.  Each employee of the Carnival of Bureaucrats has accordingly received a diamond white service pin.

Bureaucratese is becoming an active scholarly field in the humanities.  Recent research has discovered that the popular phrase “throw the bums out” originated with bureaucrats.  U.S. Railway Post Office Mail Clerks (USPOMC) developed this and other now fashionable language:

The clerks adopted a fascinating shorthand language for their work, including the term “nixie” for an unsortable or misaddressed letter and “bum” for a damaged or empty mail sack. Before leaving the station, one clerk might yell “throw the bums out,” meaning to toss out the empty mailbags.  Another could yell, “Seventy-six in the house,” noting that the mail from Trail #76 was on board. Since there was no time to read an entire mail label, clerks shortened them into nonsense phrases. Thus, the announcement of mail from the “New York and Pittsburgh Train 11, two, from Madison Square Station, New York, New York,” transformed into the cry “From the Madhouse with a two!”

To be on the forefront of linguistic fashion, mimic the modern-day descendants of USPOMC.

Recently we here at the Carnival of Bureaucrats have been studying “37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong.”  Correctness is important to bureaucrats.  Moreover, a list with 37 items is bureaucratically impressive.  But the intellectual program of Less Wrong has serious weaknesses.  In addition to its apparent low standards, it doesn’t respect established practice.  “We’ve always done it this way” is key to identifying what will be regarded as correct.  Analysis that doesn’t appreciate this fact isn’t empirically credible.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

COB-74: bureaucratic work day

Keep moving.  Except in times of danger (downsizing or reorg), good bureaucrats keep moving.  Schedule a meeting, present a proposal, reschedule a meeting, present a new proposal, and repeat.  The more times you fly back and forth between the same cities, the more important you are in your organization.  Perfect your memo’s cover sheet, and then go back and edit the cover sheet again.  Keep moving through your work routine despite all the craziness in the world.   Companies are innovating, new products are appearing, and disturbed people are doing things differently.  Entrepreneurs scurry about like cockroaches testing the offerings in a messy kitchen.  Don’t let the craziness in the world distract you.  Keep moving.

This Monday is Labor Day in the U.S. The above video is a tribute to bureaucrats world-wide, moving through their bureaucratic work days.

A friend who is a history professor once told me, “Those who cannot learn history are doomed to repeat it, next semester.”  But that was not always true.  As the American History Association, a venerable bureaucratic organization, asserts on its website:

When the American Historical Association (AHA) was founded in 1884, history had only recently emerged as a distinct academic discipline. The first few professors in the field of history had only been appointed at major universities in the 1870s.

Without history professors, there is no one to require that history be repeated.  Fortunately, a meeting of an organization called for the formation of another organization:

In 1884, “professors, teachers, specialists, and others interested in the advancement of history in this country” were called to gather at the annual meeting of the American Social Science Association (ASSA) in Saratoga, New York. Despite the opposition of the ASSA’s president, John Eaton, the historians present voted to establish the American Historical Association as a separate organization. The central figure in this initiative was Herbert Baxter Adams, an associate professor in history at Johns Hopkins University, who became the first secretary of the AHA and remained so for the next sixteen years. Andrew Dickson White, a historian and president of Cornell University, was selected as the AHA’s first president.

The new organization has been electing officers now for well over a century.  The current president of the American History Association, William Cronin, recently wrote an article on professional boredom.  Only members of the organization are allowed to add comments to the article, and members must register and log in to make a comment.  Don’t let this happen to you.

A key economic challenge with advancing automation and highly scalable network services is creating jobs.  Bureaucrats are experts in creating and preserving jobs.  Consider, for example, Terrence “Terry” Telco, a bureaucratic leader in the communications industry:

The decision of whether or not to deploy IPv6 is a decision that is largely dead simple. Oh no, not for Terry. Its an excuse to overanalyze, debate and investigate something ad infinitum in the hopes that a) people around will get too bored to notice this study has been ongoing for the past 6 years, and b) no one doing the study will ever be tasked with ever implementing the strange, overly complex and surely bespoke architecture that Terry invents to deploy IPv6.

Can there by any doubt that Telco supports a large workforce?  Isn’t it clear that Telco excels in creating jobs?  The economy needs Telco, now more than ever.

Venkat at ribbonfarm has an insightful post about waste and creativity.  Bureaucracies are often accused of being wasteful.  Venkat points out, “being able to afford to waste materials allows for better creativity.”  Bureaucrats are able to create so many procedures, rules, and documents in part because they can afford to waste materials.  So don’t criticize bureaucracies for being wasteful.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

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