You Couldn’t Make This Up

The hard problems are now completely solved

If we assume that people organize themselves so important problems are solved before trivia, we can assume that all of the hard problems have been extinguished. By way of proof notice this press release from the European Commission:

Acrylamide: vote in favour of Commission’s proposal to reduce presence in food

Under this plan, the extent to which a restaurant may toast bread or brown french fries will be limited by regulation.

In my view, the problem is right up there with the growing incidence of toast sweat on the kitchen counter when people foolishly avoid using a plate.

If this is a real problem,  worthy of notice and requiring regulation, the bureaucracies are strangling us.

Some bureaucracies have outgrown their usefulness

Acrylamide is a possible problem in large quantities and well-browned french fries contain more of it than less well browned.  Bigger trace amount means what? 

Regulation seems foolish. The harm in french fries from factors other than Acrylamide well outweigh the chemical’s effect.

This overt paternalism is hardly rare and we should notice and require its stricture.

It can get worse

In a 1992 paper, Peter Worden described the bureaucracy at NASA as a “self-licking ice cream cone.” Explanation: “a self-licking ice cream cone is a self-perpetuating system that has no purpose other than to sustain itself.” Wikipedia.

I doubt NASA is alone. 

Peter Principle

More than 60 years ago, Laurence Peter pointed out that whether the mission grows or shrinks, the bureaucracy will grow at a constant rate.

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”

Governments, institutions, and large businesses should not be immune from efficiency and effectiveness. Challenge old ways with the question, “If we were not already doing this in this way, would we start?”

Bureaucracy is expensive

We tend to think a bureaucracy has the primary goal of doing something useful for the people. That is less likely than you think. In most bureaucracies the preservation of the structure and the growth of it are primary.  There may not be anything secondary. Like NASA. 

Its cost is such that we should adopt Peter Drucker’s approach to things of this sort.

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

Smart bureaucracies and businesses are already looking to change their ways. What can we, as individuals, do to speed it up?

One possibility: Understand the difference between principle based governance and rule based governance

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. 

In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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