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Pointless, Unproductive, Unnecessary

I have a category in my calendar called “administrivia” which is especially reserved for trivial administration tasks. In fact the word “trivial” above was probably superfluous because I think all administration is trivial. Anyway, I don’t use the category much because I do tend to minimise the amount of this sort of work I do, a tendency which often gets me into a certain amount of difficulty with people who take such tasks more seriously than I do!

Although I find it hard to give administration the respect some people think I should, I do recognise that a certain amount is necessary to keep things running smoothly. It is the all too common situation where administration becomes a prime function in itself instead of what I think it should be – an unfortunate supporting function which should be minimised – where I think we have got things wrong.

A recent survey of time wasted doing administration supports this point. The survey was carried out by Kronos, a company which sells web-based management systems. Of course, this should immediately cause a bit of skepticism and perhaps even cynicism because this company has a lot to gain from convincing people they need to streamline their administration and management systems! However, I think the general points the survey makes are valid.

So the basic claim is that New Zealand companies are throwing away billions every year because of time wasted doing pointless, unproductive, and unnecessary administration tasks. Kronos claim that “internal red tape” is costing businesses in New Zealand and Australia $61 billion per year. That is on average $4200 per employee per year, or 3 hours per week wasted. To be honest, I find it a bit difficult to believe it isn’t a lot more.

The survey also showed that 70% of people thought that they weren’t productive because of the environment they were forced to work in. The managing director of the regional branch of Kronos thinks that productivity issues are due to failures in management rather than problems with the actual workers. Again, I think most people could have told him that without the need for a survey.

In addition to these points there was the remarkable finding that 52% of HR managers didn’t view people as one of their organisation’s top 3 assets. I believe that HR is one of the most vile and worthless components of the modern workplace so, again they are preaching to the converted, but even I was somewhat surprised that an attitude like that could possibly exist.

I mean, how could anyone think that the organisation’s staff aren’t, if not first, then at least second or third in order of importance? I guess these deluded management types could maybe rate managers and share-holders one and two, and even that would be wrong, but surely staff should be at least third! And these aren’t just any managers either, they are HR managers. They seem to think the “resource” they are tasked with managing isn’t important. Does that not make them unimportant as well? I suspect they don’t really see it that way.

The recommendations included the following: reduce back office functions, install efficient systems to manage essential tasks (yes, a bit self-serving, I think), automate mundane tasks where possible, and invest in employees and make life easier for them. One of the presenters also offered this: dismantle HR departments which was deemed a “shade extreme”.

Naturally, I would go a lot further and not only dismantle HR departments but all of the worthless and counter-productive nonsensical bureaucracies which exist in modern organisations. So I guess that would be seen as more than a shade extreme. It would be seen as properly extreme, but I think also properly necessary.

The management class are constantly demanding extra productivity while creating an environment where the exact opposite is achieved. There is no way that minor adjustments can fix this problem. We need to start again. We must dispense with everything that is pointless, unproductive, and unnecessary.

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