Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'll See You at the Pre-Meeting Meeting

The epitome of bureaucratic silliness is the amount of time spent supporting the bureaucracy. I recently attended a meeting where roughly 20 State Department employees sat in a room and video conferenced (yep, I made it a verb) with 11 other USG agencies, each of which had anywhere from 1 to 10 participants (that I could see). An alarming chunk of the meeting was devoted to... preparing for other meetings. There was much discussion of briefing papers for the next meeting, which would inform the agenda for yet another meeting.

FSOs who spend too much time in DC can get sucked in to the task of feeding the Washington Beast, and doing nothnig else. The Beast can devour ungodly amounts of paper, like a hungry hungry hippo at an all-you-can-eat marble buffet. A crazy amount of the bureaucracy is spent sustaining the bureaucracy. It makes me wonder how much manpower we could put to better use if we weren't so consumed with preparing for meetings and reporting on meetings. I believe it was Socrates who pondered, "If a meeting took place and nobody wrote a summary of conclusions, did it actually take place?"


Tom Navratil said...

Ah yes, it's been little more than a year and yet I remember it well. While still in the Foreign Service I used to view the role of the DC bureaucracy as information digesting. Getting all that data to the right cells and organs was continuous, unglamorous work. And like the necessary function of microbes in the intestines, it produced piles of fertilizer.


Nicole Cuadra said...

Hi Heater,
My name is Nicole Cuadra and I am a middle school student in Alice, Texas. I am doing a project on Peace Corps and Diplomacy and I thought interviewing you would be a good idea on getting an idea on a personal experience in the foreign service.
Email me at ncprojects@yahoo.com
Nicole Cuadra
William Adams Middle School
Alice, Texas