Archives for posts with tag: Bureaucracy

I was reminded of the hidden cost of bureaucracy the other day. Hidden, because it goes largely unreported, and the personal cost to me.

About 6 weeks previously, I had required to send off my passport as part of an application process. The process stated that if you needed your passport back by a certain date that you should detail this. Which I did, since I needed to fly to the UK for a week, building in 2 days buffer in the process. 2 days? I know, ludicrous in hindsight. In fact not even in 2 days. I was flying on a Monday, but told them the Saturday before and that I needed the passport by the Thursday.

The passport hadn’t arrived by the Tuesday. I needed it to fly with Ryanair, whose flights I had booked ages before. The government office dealing with my application had 4 telephone hours per week, yes 4, during which time the phone line was permanently busy. I couldn’t turn up in person and demand my passport back, so I sent an email into the info@ customer service email abyss.

Friday, the last day for postal deliveries before the weekend, and nothing. I had a sliver of hope, in that I was flying late on Monday so it might come that day. On the Friday I called in a favour and someone knew someone who worked in the department of the minister responsible. Nothing, until 4:30pm when an email responding to my info@ enquiry came back with a ‘When did you send your application? When did we receive it? What was the postal tracking number?’ I replied back with the information at about 5pm, and that was that.

In the meantime I had made enquiries with the chat facility of Ryanair, who said they couldn’t help, since the passport was mandatory for travel with them. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I discovered that if you fly with Aer Lingus from the UK to Ireland, and vice versa, and you’re a citizen of either, you can use a driver’s license for ID. Happy days. I booked the outbound flight for the Monday with them, at short notice prices, hoping that the passport might still come in time for me either to fly out with Ryanair or at least back with them if my family could post the passport out to me.

My week in the UK came and went. The passport arrived in my home town on the Friday, and I was due to fly back home on the Monday, first thing. I therefore booked a short-notice-price return flight and came home.

As I said to the info@ people to confirm I had got the passport back, it’s no use offering a process if you can’t then follow it. The fallout affects your customer. Not that there’s too much of a concept of the customer at a government level. I speculate that my application was unopened until my info@ email came in, or more likely the prod from a friend of a friend.

The cost of bureaucracy to me? The cost of bureaucratic failings? Why are they so often set up to fail, to frustrate? 2 additional flights with Aer Lingus at a cost of €150. I know, coulda been much worse.

Our French friends use the same word – faire – for both ‘to make’ and ‘to do’. Perhaps some other languages do too. You get the sense from the French of which word it translates to in English.

When it comes to combining the sense with the word ‘work’, however, it’s a really good job we have two separate words, and with every justification, as they’re fundamentally different things.

Making work is making work for yourself, to keep yourself busy, or in a job, or making work for other people to have to do, in various uncharitable and unhelpful ways. It’s the creating of a system that keeps people and organisations in a job, rather than serving the community as a whole usefully. It’s the overcomplicating of things to discourage people from applying for or claiming what is either rightfully theirs or what they’re entitled to. It’s preserving the complex, the difficult to understand, the proprietary or the difficult to join in order to justify whole departments or maintain the exclusivity of a club. Huge swathes of the public sector are guilty of this.

Then there is doing work; creating outputs, producing things, executing on plans, the act of getting something done. Productivity and performance lives at its heart. It’s about closing sales rather than preventing sales. It’s about accelerating motion, rather than retarding it. It’s about access over exclusion, encouragement over discouragement, others over oneself. It’s about knocking through barriers rather than putting them up, and it’s about telling people what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

So the question to ask yourself, obviously, is this: are you making work, or are you doing work? And the sanity question is this: what would others say about you?

The English language is, according to our good friends at wikipedia, one of the three official, ‘procedural’ languages of the European Union, used in the conduct of daily business and in written and spoken proclamations. It also seems to be the most commonly used as well.

The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, and so did the Republic of Ireland. The UK also agreed by referendum to stay in the EEC in 1975. Then, in 1993, the EU was formed.

Some 65 million speakers of English as a first language are about to leave the body whose main language is English. That leaves the Republic of Ireland, with a population of somewhere between 4 and 5 million, depending on whether it’s in an economic upswing or downturn, as the sole native-English-speaking country representative of a group comprising a third of billion people.

To further muddy the waters, the official language of The Republic is Irish.

Am I the only person for whom this linguistic arrangement in the EU seems touch ironic?