Once upon a time in a mythical, mystical land, there was an organization that protected the public and did good works to enable people to recover when they lost their way, or fell on hard times, and so become productive members of society. They did their, often thankless, task on the stipend granted by the rulers of the land, largely for the benefit that it brought to society. Nobody in the organization grew rich, but society was a better place.
Because of local and geographical differences, the organization had grown up into local guilds with a strong association with the community. Some guild branches were large, in the cities, and some were very small in rural communities. But regardless of size, they all shared a common aim – to make society a better place.
However, the counters of beans in the royal counting house were bored, and needed something new to focus on. They looked about, and asked if this was the most efficient structure for the benevolent organization. The rulers of the land sought to improve things, consulted their trusted advisers, and decreed that some of the guilds should combine together into larger organizations, in order to make economies of scale.
The affected guilds protested and pointed out that the original arrangements had grown up as a result of local or geographical needs, and would be less efficient. But the will of the rulers was strong, and the amalgamations took place. Cost did indeed rise, but the guilds received no more monies from the counting house, in fact the stipend was reduced. As a result the guilds had to lay off some of the workers, and complete the good works with fewer people, and performance fell.
After much debate, the royal counting house identified that the problem with the amalgamations was that all of the guilds used different signaling and messaging systems, and some of these were incompatible with each other. Of course the different systems had grown up to meet the needs of the original guilds in delivering their good works to the local communities, so suited the way each guild had worked. The advisers to the rulers pointed out that a single system would be much more efficient and so save on the cost of people the guilds needed to deliver the good works.
The guilds protested when they learned of the cost of the new system, however, the rulers knew better, and caused all of the signaling and messaging systems on which the guilds relied to be given to a faceless corporation. Of course the faceless corporation had lawyers and accountants and directors and shareholders, all of whom required payment for their services, so inevitably the costs to the guilds rose. Once again the stipend was reduced by the counters of beans, and sadly the guilds had to lay off more workers, and performance again fell.
The rulers of the land were perplexed by the outcome and sought to identify the reason why the costs had risen, despite the words of the advisers. They concluded that the problem lay with the management of the individual guilds, and so determined that they needed a master guild to oversee them all and show them the way forward. The new master guild employed the very finest analysts and strategist to work on the efficiency problem, and reduce the cost of delivering the good works. They labored together in a magnificent palace near to the rulers of the land so that the rulers could see for themselves the work that was happening.
The analysts and strategist sent out books of rules to which every guild must adhere, and demanded that carrier pigeons be dispatched every month with details of how the guilds were implementing the new strategies. Unfortunately all this regulation increased the cost to the guilds delivering the good works, and the guilds protested, but to no avail.
Since the analysts and strategist in their magnificent palace cost a lot to maintain, the counters of beans in the royal counting house were appalled at the escalating bill for delivering the good works, and lamented the fall in performance. They demanded that something be done to rectify the situation immediately, and proposed that groups of guilds be formed together, based on regional and geographical location. Each guild region would have an overseer who would commission the good works, and withhold payment from any guild that fell short of performance targets. Once again the guilds protested that it was becoming impossible to deliver the good works with all the rules and layers of bureaucracy, but the rulers of the land acted on the words of the advisers of the counters of beans, and appointed the overseers.
In order to ensure that they understood all of the challenges faced by the guilds in doing the good works, the overseers requested that their guilds dispatched carrier pigeons to the regional palace every week. The overseers each kept a staff of administrators and under-managers to process the returns, and ensure that no guild unfairly had their stipend withheld. However the regional palaces, overseers, administrators and under-managers all increased the cost to the royal counting house.
As the information demands of the master guild had not reduced since the implementation of the overseer, soon the guilds were swamped with carrier pigeons for each of the different bodies. Each guild had to divert essential resources from delivering good works into maintaining and dispatching the pigeons, and each had a sizable loft and systems for ensuring efficient dispatch of the messages. Unfortunately the overheads of feeding and housing all the pigeons was costing the guilds dearly, and to make matters worse, performance was still falling.
More and more initiatives were proposed and implemented by the rulers, all without success.
- The maintenance and cleaning of the pigeon lofts across the land was granted to another faceless corporation, but performance fell and costs increased.
- Standards were documented by the scribes and applied to every guild across the land, but still costs increased.
- A proposal was circulated that all the pigeon lofts were to be amalgamated into a single super loft, implemented by one of the faceless corporations, even though the guilds protested that pigeon technology was outdated. The proposal went ahead, but the idea fell down as each guild still needed it’s own loft, and of course costs spiraled.
The counters of beans were in despair, and the rulers of the land squirmed uncomfortably. Something had to change!
At last, the rulers of the land ordered an investigation into the situation, and demanded a solution to the problem of the rising cost of performing the good works. The sun rose and set many times while the seers and advisers proposed and counter-proposed, argued and debated. The only thing that hadn’t been changed was the guilds themselves. They must be the cause of the problem, but how could the good works be delivered without the guilds? The only solution would be to outsource all the good works to one of the many faceless corporations which showed such expertise in delivering magnificent contracts!
Just then, one of the advisers pointed out that the faceless corporations were there to make a profit, so no-one would bid for the contract because of all the bureaucracy, standards, constraints, rules and regulations. On this there was general agreement, so the rulers of the land made a series of proclamations
- They disbanded the regional overseers
- They relaxed the rules which prevented the people delivering the good works from using their judgement
- They removed the requirement for the faceless corporation to dispatch all the pigeons
- They removed any regulation or standard which would increase the cost for the faceless organization, and so dissuade them from taking the contract
- They wrapped the contract in all sorts of sweeteners and incentives,
Most importantly, they made it difficult for the guilds to operate on a commercial basis by insisting that they continue to use the obsolete messaging system, dependent on the pigeon lofts.
The night that the magnificent contract was awarded to the faceless corporation, the counting house resounded to joyous singing. The rulers of the land were relieved that they had divested themselves of the problem of delivering the good works to the diverse people in the cities, towns and hamlets. They grasped and shook the hands of the lawyers and and advisers, who had worked so hard to make it all possible. Merriment was unrestrained, until at last everyone retired to sleep, happy and exhausted.
The next morning, all the representatives of the the faceless corporations, who had been acting as advisers to the rulers of the land, slipped silently back to their employers, their work complete. Let the carnage begin.
This is just a metaphor, a story. There are no people, genders, institutions or organizations identified here. Any conclusions you may draw are your own. It is not real, and it could not happen.
Or could it?