Pretending to change?
Posted August 8, 2015on:
Note: This might read like a rant. It is actually a reflection of hope and I indicate as such right at the end.
One of the bugbears of freelancers and consultants must be the variety of needless administrative requirements of partners. My pet peeve is old-school practices disguised as new.
I will share just two stories. I do this without naming names and without intent to shame the organizations. I do this to provide a different perspective and highlight blindspots.
One important administrative process is making sure I get paid. While smaller organizations have moved on to better processes, large ones tend to be more conservative.
For example, I have completed forms for electronic payment by many organizations. With smaller organizations and schools, I merely visit their e-portal of choice, submit in e-invoice, and wait to get paid. The e-platform already has my bank account information so the process is seamless.
With one large organization, I had to visit my bank to get endorsement that the bank account was mine and submit a paper-based form by snail mail. Why was this necessary when the electronic processes were faster and no less secure (if not more so)?
To be fair, there is value in verifying one’s banking information. However, the electronic way is much faster. Perhaps I should start charging a WET fee, Wasted Effort and Time, if I am required to enact outdated practices.
Maybe they are worried that I might specify some other bank account that is not mine, a terrorist organization’s perhaps. If that was the case, the trail of evidence is electronic. Merely looking at my face and identification card would do diddley-squat.
Another large organization sent me a similar financial document in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to fill in. The default text was white (on white background) and offset so that it did not appear in text boxes.
Such a form was clearly designed by administration wanting to be digital on paper, but not in practice. The form merely replicated what you had to do on paper instead of taking advantage of digital forms.
If I was a productivity consultant, I would recommend getting rid of the old-school managers or policymakers for maintaining this unproductive process. I would also send the administrative staff for professional development, and if they refuse to change, they can join their higher-ups in the unemployment line.
Story number two. Before working with a partner or collaborator, there is typically a contract document (complete with legalese) to sign. Most people do not read the details or care for them even if they do. I do because I care.
I have processed one-size-fits-all documents, detected missing sections, spotted errors in details like dates, and worse, read clauses that protect only my partner organization, but not me. Partnership? What partnership?
For example, once in a blue moon I receive documents that attempt to take ownership of my products or processes, and/or effectively require me to seek permission from them to use my own work.
Instead of getting angry, I have taken the opportunity to try to educate them about Creative Commons.
I do this at the risk of not getting awarded the contracts. I ask myself if I can live with the consequences. One is a pragmatic consequence: It represents a potential loss of income. The other is philosophical: It stands for what I believe in. I can live with not being awarded a contract and a lucrative pay; I cannot live with an unnecessary compromise.
But all is not lost. There are a few (very few!) individuals who are open to change and working within those systems. Some are just learning that there are alternatives, some are natural change agents. I hope they stick around long enough to make a difference.