Consider the following situation, you receive a letter dated 26 February 2021, postmarked 11 March 2021, and received on 16 March 2021. The letter demands you respond within 14-days of the date of the letter, or you will be held accountable for failing to respond in a timely manner. When you call to complain about the delay in receiving the letter, you are told, the US Post Office (USPS) is to blame, and all complaints should be directed to the USPS.
What is an excuse?
An excuse is a method to reduce blame attached to an action, defend or justify one’s actions, an attempt to release one from accountability or a poor or inadequate example of something. As children, we are taught excuses are like noses; everyone has one, and picking it in public is disgusting. Yet, when something happens, two types of people emerge, those who make excuses and those who take responsibility and work to fix the problem.
What is designed incompetence?
Designed incompetence is a ready-made excuse for inadequacies created in business operations, a method to avoid responsibility and accountability. Due to the cost of designed incompetence, it is generally only found in government operations. Designed incompetence can also be intentional actions designed into business operations, so the expected functions are designed to fail purposefully. Designed incompetence is always harmful and destructive in nature, generally will make no logical sense, and will always be the preplanned leadership fallback position.
Example of an excuse:
The USPS is running slow, so the delivery of mail is taking longer to deliver than usual.
COVID has a lot of employees out sick, so operations are slower.
The person who wrote the order requesting the work to be completed did not do their jobs properly, and the original order must be rewritten.
Examples of designed incompetence:
How mail is handled is that one person prints the letter and stuffs it into an envelope. Another employee picks up the mail for delivery to the mailroom. A third employee operates the postage machine. Once posted, a fourth employee takes all the mail to the postal dropoff/pickup point.
The “system” is designed so that the person writing the orders is the only one who can designate where the work can be completed.
The regular employee handling this process is out, and nobody else knows that position sufficiently to perform the employee’s functions with COVID. So everything had to stop while we waited for the original employee to return.
We “forgot” to reset the postage paid from $0.46 to $0.51, which caused delays in mail being correctly posted and sent out. Since four of the six-letter received on 16 March had a second $.10 postage on the back, I can presume safely there was a delay.
What do you think?
Today, I spent four different calls to the same government agency, and received more than 12 different excuses, and identified 6 processes designed incompetently with the sole purpose of providing a method to shift blame, remove accountability, deny responsibility. I was talking to the Department Heads of three different sections of the same organization. People in charge of fixing the problems to eliminate excuses and redesign operations to remove designed incompetence are not doing their jobs. Maybe, my analysis is a little hasty; however, after 17 years of dealing with this organization, I feel confident in my conclusions.
I know my response; I am very disgusted with the organization and these designed incompetent operations and lackadaisical managers posing as leaders. As a professional who works with companies and organizations, I work tirelessly to remove excuses and eliminate designed incompetence. Yet, I do not understand how the government can continue to escape responsibility, accountability, and behavior correction. I am not confused but very disheartened that Congress refuses to scrutinize the government to correct and improve behavior and performance.
What would you suggest for corrective behavior for the government? I am genuinely interested in your thoughts and comments, for, from the disparity of the comments, we can design improvements and demand those improvements are accepted. Feel free to dream big in the comments, and let’s design our government to improve for all.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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