One of the things I frequently do in my job is what’s known in the IT industry as “process re-engineering.” What this flash-sounding description means is I look at how something’s done now and see if I can work out a way to do it better, usually by using some sort of software. I was recently involved in a review of workplace emergency procedures which went a little… wrong. And there’s no getting around it – the whole debacle was completely my fault.
We were looking at the “serious incident” reporting form and, well… how do I describe what happened? My brain let me down. More specifically, the little voice in my head that’s supposed to control my more bizarre impulses took a fucking holiday. Most people have a little voice that advises them against committing career suicide – “tell the boss his tie looks great, don’t tell the truth and say it looks like someone ate an entire ice cream cake then threw up on it.”
I suspect my little voice has some chronic substance abuse issues. Most of the time he’s either comatose and unable to help me or he’s actively contributing to a negative outcome by screaming something along the lines of “Go ahead and tell him he’s an idiot! You’d be doing him a favour by pointing out how fucked up his idea is – who cares if he’s a divisional manager?”
My little voice hadn’t gotten me into trouble for a while so I guess I was overdue for a blowout. Everything in the emergency process review was going well until I saw that the reporting form included a space for drawing a picture of the “incident”. I blurted out (in a rather enthusiastic tone):
“Do you get to use different colours when you draw the picture?”
This met with a confused silence until someone asked the obvious question: why would that matter?
“Because,” I responded, “that would be really cool. You could do a before and after picture and use colours to really illustrate what happened.” At this point, the warning voice should have been screaming at me to shut up but all was quiet. So I walked up to the whiteboard to illustrate. “You see, here’s Ralph before the accident and everything’s fine:”
“And now we show Ralph after…”
It’s easy to see why I thought this was a good idea, right? This is an accident report that really lets you know how serious the accident was. I like to think my special skills were shining through here.
Those people don’t invite me to meetings any more.