Two works of fiction (maybe not)
CHAINS OF COMMAND
At a meeting three months ago, they discovered a referral procedure wasn’t working. In fact, there wasn’t a referral procedure at all, nor a referral form, although they had all believed there had been both. They thought the problem would be easy to fix because they didn’t have to figure out why a form or process didn’t work. They only had to develop a process and a form, then see how it worked.
The people who were supposed to get the referrals said they had never received a referral. One referring person said she had referred at least three cases to the people who said they never got any referrals. To sort this out would require detective work and phone conversations on who had been referred and where and when the referral had gone physically and who had picked it up and taken it to where it didn’t arrive.
To avert the time-intensive investigation, Woman 1 said she’d ask Woman 2 to develop a referral form, then Woman 1 would review it, then everyone would start using it. Woman 1 anticipated it would take three weeks. She wouldn’t try for perfection, just a good enough form so people could make the referrals.
Key Man was away on personal leave for five months. Woman 1 went away for a month. The Month Two meeting was cancelled. In Month Three, Key Man was back as was Woman 1 but three important people had changed jobs and Woman 2, who had been assigned to create the form, couldn’t come because of a conflict with another meeting. At the Month Four meeting, Woman 1 saw that if anything had been done, no one knew about it. Upon realizing this, she started to castigate everyone at the meeting, then remembered she was a professional and stopped herself after only three sentences.
After the meeting, Woman 1 left a message for Woman 2, who had been assigned to draft the form three months earlier. Women 2 didn’t call Woman 1 back. Woman 1 called again one week later and Woman 2 called back and left a message because Woman 1 was at a meeting. “Key Woman,” she said on the message, “gave the task to Woman 3 last month, but she’s on stress leave now. I don’t know what happened after that.” Key Woman didn’t tell Woman 1 about the change of assignment to Woman 3 and she didn’t tell Key Man or Woman I that Woman 3 was now out of the office on stress leave. Woman 2 said she would ask Woman 3 when she returned from stress leave. When Woman 2 found out what had been done, she would let Woman 1 know, though Women 2’s tone implied she doubted anything had been done.
On Monday, Woman 1 will try to get the referral form developed by again calling Key Man and maybe Woman 2 but not Woman 3 because she’s on stress leave.
The agency wants staff to adopt the latest work practices, but staff think the new practices are just the latest fad.
Hired to help the agency staff get up to date, the woman is irritated because she’s worked with them a long time and can predict what they’ll say. Worse, they can predict what she’ll say. She’s hired to give a certain message over and over. Together, they sit in meetings and she repeats what she’s hired to say and other staff repeat what they are supposed to say, which is different from what she’s supposed to say.
The agency hired her to assure that staff will, in time, say what she says and, in slightly more time, do what she says. Then the agency won’t have to pay her to say it. This is the Organizational Change Goal. Or is it the Objective? Both are desired outcomes, one is generic and one specific but she’s never been sure which is which. They seem so similar. Maybe she’s delivered the Objective and should have delivered the Goal.
The agency continues to hire her because staff haven’t yet begun to say or do what she says. Sometimes she asks staff what they think she’s going to say and they can always tell her. Sometimes, without prompting, someone will say what she was going to say. Then she remains quiet, looks at the person and smiles encouragingly. Mostly, however, staff members don’t say what she’s paid to say. They keep repeating what the last person like her said, which they learned during the last fad, and don’t say what she’s paid to say.