Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Creating Bureaucracy

As things get busier this time of the year, time becomes more precious. I am sometimes left without sufficient time to prepare a post for Bytes, hence a repost.

During the previous week, I had occasion to mention to other persons some principles and commentaries that have previously featured in Bytes. The first one was initially posted in November 2012 and reposted in July 2015. It appears below. The other will be posted tomorrow. Hopefully you will either not have read them before or find the rereading of them enjoyable. I did.

How To Create Bureaucracy, Policy, And Procedures 

1. Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, an ape will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. 

2. As soon as the ape touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water. After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result - all the apes are sprayed with cold water. 

3. Turn off the cold water. If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them. 

4. Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted. 

5. Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. 

6. Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape. 

7. After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. 

Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs. Why not? 

"BECAUSE that's the way it's always been done around here." 

If the above item seems a bit extreme, note the following comments by someone responding online to the above:

Heard a story about a woman who always cut the end off the leg of lamb before putting it in to roast, it was because her mother did. When the mother was asked, it was for the same reason. When the grandmother was asked, her answer was "because my pan is too small". The younger generations had the right size pans but continued to trim!

The origin of the terms "bureaucracy", from wikipedia:
The term "bureaucracy" is French in origin and combines the French word bureau – desk or office – with the Greek word κράτος (Kratos) – rule or political power. It was coined in the mid-18th century by the French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay and was a satirical pejorative from the outset. Gournay never wrote the term down but was later quoted at length in a letter from a contemporary: 
The late M. de Gournay... sometimes used to say: "We have an illness in France which bids fair to play havoc with us; this illness is called bureaumania." Sometimes he used to invent a fourth or fifth form of government under the heading of "bureaucracy." — Baron von Grimm 
The first known English-language use dates to 1818. Here, too, the sense was pejorative, with Irish novelist Lady Morgan referring to "the Bureaucratie, or office tyranny, by which Ireland has so long been governed." By the mid-19th century, the word was being used in a more neutral sense, referring to a system of public administration in which offices were held by unelected career officials. In this sense "bureaucracy" was seen as a distinct form of management, often subservient to a monarchy. In the 1920s, the definition was expanded by the German sociologist Max Weber to include any system of administration conducted by trained professionals according to fixed rules. Weber saw the bureaucracy as a relatively positive development; however, by 1944 the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises noted that the term bureaucracy was "always applied with an opprobrious connotation," and by 1957 the American sociologist Robert Merton noted that the term "bureaucrat" had become an epithet.

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