National boycott Stupidity Day

A couple of years ago I promoted National Boycott Stupidity Day (NBSD), an event devoted to not watching Forrest Gump or doing anything else promoting dumbness as a virtue.

          Managment Speak: The project has been rescoped. This is a good thing from the point of view of eliminating Scope Creep, which had gotten way out of hand.

          Translation No. 1: We didn't know what we were doing, but we're going to try other random things to see if any work better.

          Translation No. 2: Now that we've said yes too many times, we'll say no too many times.

          -- This week's anonymous IS Survivalist points out just a few of the complexities of project management.

          A couple of years ago I promoted National Boycott Stupidity Day (NBSD), an event devoted to not watching Forrest Gump or doing anything else promoting dumbness as a virtue.

          The point of NBSD was to promote intelligence as the proper virtue, not to brand particular concepts, groups, or ideologies as stupid. "I disagree" doesn't mean "You're a dope."

          Speaking of dopes, keep a lookout for a few in the following situations, relevant to topics covered recently in this column.

          As yet more evidence of why policies are no substitute for judgment, I offer this example. According to the Associated Press, an 11-year-old girl received a two-week suspension from school because the 10-inch chain on her Tweety bird wallet connecting to her key ring violated the school district's zero-tolerance weapons policy.

          Weapon? A trained assassin couldn't strangle someone with a 10-inch wallet chain. I've seen this kind of merchandise. It's far too shoddy to hold up to the strain, and besides, 10 inches is far too short to serve as a garrote. Maybe she was going to peck someone's eye out with Tweety's beak.

          Due to this inappropriately enforced policy, the girl suffers both humiliation and lost classroom time, and nobody at all benefits. I figure the only good that comes out of idiocy like this is that it promotes the most basic, bedrock American value: disrespect for authority.

          So for rigid adherence to policy above and beyond the call of IQ, I hereby honor the culprits -- the administrators of Garrett Middle School in suburban Atlanta -- with our coveted Bureaucrat of the Year Award.

          If you ever find yourself enforcing a policy simply because "That's our policy," feel free to nominate yourself for next year's award.

          Meanwhile, on the cost-cutting front, here are two fine examples of failing to understand the connection between expense and income.

          First, a correspondent's wife used to work as a professional dietitian for a health care services company. She and her colleagues were 100% billable at high margins and demand exceeded supply.

          As part of a larger cost-cutting exercise, her employer imposed a hiring freeze on dietitians and also laid off several others. I'm quite sure the cost cutters congratulated themselves on making "a hard decision," and I'm equally sure nobody ever figured out why financial performance failed to improve following these "tough cost-cutting measures."

          Second, a company I know of reduced the size of its customer-service call centre as part of a cost-reduction programme. So as not to play favourites among its call-centre managers, it also shrank its order-entry call centre. A year later the CEO chartered a separate study to determine what the company could do to improve revenue growth. Guess where the study found an easy million bucks?

          So to the administrators of Garrett Middle School, the cost cutters who imposed a freeze on dietitian positions, and the others who shrank an order-entry call centre without first looking at call volume: If we ever hold another National Boycott Stupidity Day, don't expect an invitation.

          Bob Lewis is a Minneapolis-based consultant at Perot Systems.

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