'It has been an over-engineered, over-proceduralised process whereby workers spend more and more time driving desks than actually visiting and seeing children.
[W]e have an over-engineered system which has created its own paradox whereby in trying to seek to be compliant with all of the instructions and requirements and procedures and policies that workers are inadvertently now spending more time engaging in that element of the work and less time in actually building a relationship, which takes time, it is a time-consuming principle of our practice, and unless we start inverting that pyramid or inverting that, then we will continue to struggle to engage our workers in the things that they intuitively know they need to do and the voices of the child in that space are loud and clear. The voices in the theory are loud and clear, but we have created an architecture which I believe prevents workers from engaging in that in a purposeful and meaningful way.'
- Tony Kemp, Deputy Secretary of Tasmania's Human Services Department
In his evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Kemp cited the 'well established theory' that staff should spend eighty percent of their time with children and twenty percent to administration. He said that this had been reversed in recent years.
Mr Kemp's Department is not unique. Australian organisations spend $250 Billion a year on compliance - evenly split between government and the private sector.
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organisation there will be two kinds of people:
- Those who are devoted to the goals of the organisation. Teachers in a school, nurses in a hospital, soldiers in an Army.
- Those who are dedicated to the organisation itself. Administrators in an education system, hospital management, generals.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second kind will gain and keep control of the organisation. It will write the rules, and control the first kind's career advancement.
The demoralising inevitability that Pournelle's Iron Law means the organisation ends up being its own Widget - its dedicated staff conquering the devoted ones - has an antidote.
The second 'dedicated' kind must make its decisions in service of the same Widget as the first 'devoted' group is making.
The second kind should start every meeting, every decision making process with a prayer:
'Lead us to the Widget, and deliver us from our egos.