Thursday, March 11, 2010

We touch people’s lives, but what happens when we screw up?

In response to my post about Ms. DS-160 and the um -- “unforeseen” challenges in the rollout of DS-160, a reader quoted former Consular Bureau top honcho, Maura Harty who used to say "We touch people's lives."  Reader has some added words of spicy wisdom: “Yeah, well, we touch a LOT of people's lives, and when we screw up, we screw up big.” 

This is the same bureau that in 2005 did a study predicting future nonimmigrant visa workload for major countries.  The GAO in July 2007 noted that a study done by the Department in 2005 predicting future NIV workload in major countries was radically off the mark for Brazil. That study predicted a workload for Brazil in the year 2014 that already was met in 2007. Just seven years off the mark! And you wonder why there were officers who did 200 interviews a day?  

And just because you can roll out Ms. DS-160 all at the same time in China and a couple dozen countries, must you?  Given the consequences under Murphy’s law? And given that the applicants are paying customers? I wonder if this is a case of somebodies in a hurry to pick up cookie points…um, not unheard of. I can tell you that March is a truly horrible month for project roll-outs.  Not only is 1040 hanging over your head screaming "do me, do me next!", you also get your EER tapping impatiently outside your ears (eers aka: performance evaluation).       

It is by no accident that our unnamed blog friend/reader/lurker also pointed us to John Cook’s piece in Lifehacker about how "Work Expands to the Time Allowed"Math professor, programmer, and blogger John Cook discusses how work expands to fill the time allowed for it.

Below is an excerpt from that post for our good friends at the Consular Bureau and (fill in your choice of expanding bureau) who may/may not find this interesting:
The full title of the first chapter of the book is “Parkinson’s Law, or The Rising Pyramid.” This chapter explains how work expands to fill the available resources within a bureaucracy and why bureaucracies grow exponentially at a compounding rate of around 5% per year. The subtitle addresses the mechanism for this growth, bureaucrats creating a pyramid of subordinates. Parkinson derives his law from “two almost axiomatic statements”:
  1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
  2. Officials make work for each other.

Nowadays Parkinson’s law is usually condensed to saying work expands to the time allowed. It is applied to individuals as well as a burgeoning bureaucracies. Parkinson discusses this interpretation in his opening paragraph but then limits his attention to organizations.

The total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.

See John D. Cook’s blog here.

Thank you Diplopundit friend/reader/lurker for John Cook. His blog is a wonderful find. One of my favorite posts is his “Just in case” versus “just in time” learning. Check it out.

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