Clever ways of being stupid

Read the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual: A Timeless Guide to Subverting Any Organization with “Purposeful Stupidity” (1944)
But in addition to human failings, there’s another possible reason for bureaucratic disorder; the conspiracy-minded among us may be forgiven for assuming that in many cases, institutional incompetence is the result of deliberate sabotage from both above and below. The ridiculous inner workings of most organizations certainly make a lot more sense when viewed in the light of one set of instructions for “purposeful stupidity,” namely the once top-secret Simple Sabotage Field Manual, written in 1944 by the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

Reducing burden, or just moving it about a bit?


Something that’s not going to affect many people out there in the real world, but still, a step in the right direction:

Trac burden cut after Hefce review
Universities are to benefit from a reduced administrative burden in supplying information about their costs, but government pressure to give more of such data to students has met with a cool response.

Having said that, for me that administrative burden is coming from a different direction. For instance this, thankfully not from my place…

Thousands of Winchester students lose out on loan money
Nearly 2,000 Winchester students have each lost out on £400 of student loan funding due to an admin blunder.

Man after my own heart?

Gus O'DonnellIt’s been suggested I have a listen to Gus O’Donnell’s Radio 4 thing, In Defence of Bureaucracy. It sounds great — “Former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell argues that bureaucracy is an essential part of a functioning democracy” — if you like that kind of thing. Which I do.

I was hoping The Google might tell me a little more about this but the links it provided were decidedly unhelpful.

One from looked promising:

There is no shame in being a bureaucrat
Bureaucracy brings fairness in a way more discretionary systems cannot, says Gus O’Donnell. Calling someone a bureaucrat should not be a …

but the article’s behind a paywall.

And another, from The Daily Mail, was heading off down a path I didn’t care to follow

Unsung heroes? No, pen-pushers like Gormless Gus are the bane of modern life!
We should be proud of our millions of bureaucrats, said nasal Gus, or Baron O’ Donnell of Clapham, as he has become following his seamless …

Let’s leave that there, shall we? I’ll just have to make up my own mind.


Sir Humphrey: Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

HE bureaucracy

I really CAN’T STAND these types of articles. PLEASE STOP YOU’RE NOT HELPING.

The irresistible rise of academic bureaucracy
Grahame Lock, a fellow in the faculty of philosophy at Oxford University, says that a managerial “hyper-bureaucracy” has taken hold in higher education. “Imagine that managers are going to assess the quality of restaurant meals but they have no sense of taste,” he says. “They have no idea – everything tastes the same to them. So what are they going to do? They will undertake evaluations such as how many minutes did it take for the soup to arrive at your table? How many words of explanation did the waiter use? And so on. Everything is evaluated quantitatively, so the obvious thing for a manager to do is to increase the amount of information gathered…”

HE audits

Leader: Red tape: A form of distrust – As audit overloads academics, it also undermines their freedoms, impedes their work and damages their public standing
A scary new word to emerge in our cover story is “hyper-bureaucracy”, which describes “an out-of-control system” that emerges in the search for optimum efficiency and takes no account of the costs in time, energy and money that are needed to achieve it. It is a bureaucratic nightmare in which there is no end to the extra information that can be acquired. The monitoring of contact hours and how academics spend their time are examples of the type of bureaucracy that “eats up people and resources”, according to Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at the University of Warwick.

Audit overload – Bureaucracy is an inescapable fact of life in today’s academy. John Morgan unravels the true extent and consequences of red tape
There are those who argue that a “hyper-bureaucracy” has taken hold, tailoring universities to the needs of the labour market, coercing academics into following the rationale of business in their research choices and destroying notions of the intrinsic value of scholarship. But do academics direct their unhappiness at those who shape policy, or at blameless administrators who happen to be closest to hand? And isn’t bureaucracy necessary to make academics accountable and to ensure that public money going into universities is spent fairly and effectively?

Future shock, adhocracy

Future shock
Toffler argues that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation” – future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems were symptoms of the future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he also coined the term information overload.

[A]dhocracies will get more common and are likely to replace bureaucracy. … Downsides of adhocracies can include “half-baked actions”, personnel problems stemming from organization’s temporary nature, extremism in suggested or undertaken actions, and threats to democracy and legality rising from adhocracy’s often low-key profile. To address those problems, researches in adhocracy suggest a model merging adhocracy and bureaucracy, the bureau-adhocracy.