by Ross Sharp

I, and about a dozen others, have been asked to participate in a spot of “training”, a two day spot of training about a particular “system” of “process evaluation methodology”.

This training, we are told, will strengthen our ability to manage and improve the quality of our, and our Global Corp’s, continuing performance and aid us in identifying techniques for “maximising efficiency gains”.

This “system” is called Lean Six Sigma.

According to the blurb on the back of the “Lean Six Sigma for Dummies” book – yes, there is one – this system will help “unclog your pipes” which apparently means “tackling bottlenecks in your processes”, and not what you may be thinking.

We have been asked to identify “pain points” we may currently grapple with in our daily toils to which we might apply this “methodology”, to which I feel very much like responding “Turning the fuck up every day to listen to this bullshit” …

… This morning, for example, a fluorescent light above my desk began to flicker, and I told the person to whom one is supposed to tell such things that a fluorescent light above my desk was beginning to flicker, and was told I should “log” a “service request”, which involves sending an email via a “Service Desk” application and writing, “There’s a fluorescent light above my desk that is beginning to flicker.”

This done, you receive an automated response from the “Service Desk” application informing you that the service request you just sent has been received.

Which is what is supposed to happen when you hit the “Send” button, so it’s nice to know that it works.

A short time thereafter, another automated email from the “Service Desk” arrives to let you know that your request has been assigned to a person, a human being no less, and that this human being will deal with your request as soon as they deal with it, at a time yet to be determined, a later time, a future time, perhaps far flung, perhaps nigh, but a time nevertheless of dusky mystique, of mist and of magic, and big gnarly trees with little elves in them.

Your time magically arrives (as time always does), bringing with it a human being (no less) who then proceeds to step upon a small step-ladder (for dancing upon step-ladders is unseemly and may lead to fornications), take the flickering fluorescent light out, put a new one in, fold up the ladder, and say, “There you go”, to which I say, “Thanks for that”, which is what Macbeth said to Banquo’s murderers after they’d killed him, don’t you know.

Then another email from the “Service Desk” arrives a little later to let you know that your service request has been attended to, just in case you were asleep at the time and missed all the excitement.

Another email arrives a little after that to inform you that your “issue” has been “resolved” and is now “closed”, so you may now change the case name from red to blue on the whiteboard in the squad room, and go to Munch’s bar for a knees-up with some of the fellas in celebration.

You could have just walked down the corridor  and across the aisle to ask the guy who replaces the lights to replace yours if and when he has a moment.

You could have, once upon a distant time, just grabbed a replacement tube, climbed up on your desk, and changed it yourself …

… although today you’d probably be spotted by a Workplace Health and Safety Officer and given a stern talking to about the deadly perils of desk-climbing …

You cannot do these things anymore.

You can no longer simply do a thing in order to get it done.

It appears to defeat the purpose of doing it.

The purpose now is the process, and not the result.

The process now has a map. It has a value stream. It has a timeline. It has inputs, outputs, check sheets, control charts, scatter plots and Pareto diagrams.

It has methodology. It’s been evaluated, measured, mined, reviewed, revised and specially formulated to deliver the maximum of one thing with a minimum of some other thing.

It’s been approved by Senior Executive Management across the globe and enthusiastically endorsed by Leading Business Celebrities too numerous to mention.

People make a living thinking this shit up. Thinking up bullshit for other people to do …

… and they all go quietly crazy trying to do it, trying to understand why they’re doing it, and what exactly is it they’re doing, and then they end up drinking too much, or taking pills, or spending their weekends smoking pot and listening to old King Crimson albums, eating Chinese takeaway because they’re too fucking munted to fix their own grub anymore …

Pain points”?