I want to paint a scenario. Use your imagination to follow along.
You're taking four tests. The tests are different questions about the same subject. You've studied the material and you know it. You're ready for the tests.
But you're not allowed to touch the tests.
For you to complete your tests, four people will ask you twenty-five different questions. They will mark your answers for you. It's multiple choice. You answer a-e and they write down the letter. You can't see the test or review it afterward.
When they're done asking you the questions and marking your answers, the tests are passed on to other people. These other people will transfer your answers, without the questions, to another sheet. But whereas your intial answers were written letters, they're circling the answers you gave. Those results are passed on to another person.
The next person fills in circles corresponding to your answers on yet another sheet of paper.
The circles must be perfectly filled in.
The sheet with the filled in circles is passed to another. They then transfer your answers to a string of characters by your name.
All four of the tests you took were processed this same way. The last step is to take all four of your tests with the results in a string and concatenate them into one long string.
They are then forwarded to be graded.
You're told the results. You missed three. They can't tell you which three.
But you need to correct the three incorrect answers.
This is exactly how much of my work seems to be accomplished. A thousand people are taking the tests. Between all of us, we're taking about ten thousand tests.
I'm taking the smallest number of tests. My test questions are unique. Where the tests were designed with a-e in mind, some of my questions have answers that range from a-k.
Not all the people transferring the information know this.
Neither do all the people grading my tests. Further, the graders don't agree on the correct answers.
All this is driven by established processes. The processes were created forty years ago or more. While laws, the business and many requirements have changed since then, the systems is continually rigged to cope with the changes. Access is limited by business controls and it's all centralized and rigid.
Further, to understand which three answers were incorrect, I need to ask each person involved for them to review their part and report back to me. I then need to forward their results to the person who put the information in for me and ask, is this right? Is that what I answered and is that what you marked?
Once it's determined which one is wrong, I take the test again, but just for the questions missed, and the same process is followed.
Everyone will recognize this as a modern bureaucracy. I'm not alone being caught in the middle. Many people were trapped in the middle during the housing bubble burst and the foreclosure crises that followed. The Internet is wealthy with stories about bank errors and incompetence and people losing their homes as a result.
People who go through health issues and deal with insurance companies will also recognize this bureaucracy and that frustration of being caught in the middle. So will people dealing with credit card companies -- and the IRS -- identity theft victims, and people struggling with other sorts of insurance or trapped by an administration that believes that they died.
When it comes down to it, we're all caught in the middle.
Well, 99% of us are caught in the middle. The wealthy and the powerful, like our Federal public servants, rise above the bureaucracies by dint of their money or position. Everyone else is likely like me, knocking their heads against the wall every day, gritting their teeth about their pain and frustration, and wishing, that just for one day, they could be in charge....
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com