Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creating an Office of SD

There are many organizations that have not yet of the idea of an Office of SD, so I thought I’d introduce the idea and its benefits here. The origin of this blink of genius is Dr. Howard Doing, author of Making it Slow. I had the opportunity to chat with him online. His screen name is zippy99. I have only corrected spelling and most grammar in the transcript that follows (he was online using his phone).
Zippy99: How did u track me down?

Stanislav: The publisher wouldn’t talk, but I eventually found It wasn’t easy, frankly.

Zippy99: What do you want?

Stanislav: I was hoping you could tell me and my readers about your SD office idea. Do you have time?

Zippy99: Okay. I’m just driving down I-95 anyway.

Stanislav: What gave you the idea for the book?

Zippy99: Well, I’ve been a student, professor, and administrator at several colleges and universities. I’m not saying how many, but there was one common theme at all of them: the need for consolidation. I really saw the benefits at a campus in the Midwest, where they created a building just for classrooms. No offices, nothing but stories of classrooms. Even skimped on the elevators and stairs to make more room. Brilliant!

Stanislav: It’s more efficient?

Zippy99: It’s the concentration of purpose that's the beauty of the thing. It should be obvious to even a […] who are you, again?

Stanislav: Just an admirer of your work. I direct exotic plumbing projects in real life.

Zippy99: Well, at IU they didn’t take it far enough. I tried to convince them that they should also have a building to concentrate all the bathrooms in, but they wouldn’t go for it. I suppose the time wasn’t right. That was my building phase.

Stanislav: What got you thinking about processes instead of buildings?

Zippy99: The shear grinding boredom of trying to get anything accomplished at a university. Every committee and office had an assigned—and no doubt useful—function, but they each all had a common secondary effect as well.

Stanislav: They all made you wait.

Zippy99: YES! It began to drive me mad once I realized it. It would take weeks to get paperwork through the business office. The lead time on any Human Resources change was at least two months. And don’t even think about the faculty committees.

Stanislav: So how did your inspiration strike?

Zippy99: I was in the bathtub thinking about it. Suddenly I realized all this stuff around me is water, and there’s me here. I’m mostly water too, and if I could remove the water from my body---it gets a little fuzzy after that, but you see the point.

Stanislav: Actually that makes no sense at all. Can you explain the office of SD’s function?

Zippy99: Let me set it up first. Imagine if you could take all the slowdowns out of all those offices and committees I mentioned: distill them out, so to speak. They would be much more efficient, and everyone would be happier dealing with them. Then you could concentrate all the slow-downs into one NEW office: the Office of Slowing Things Down. People would be irritated at the SD office, but at least they’d understand it’s just fulfilling its purpose. It’s beautiful.

Stanislav: And you didn’t call it the STD Office because…?

Zippy99: That one was already taken, unfortunately. It’s actually one of the more efficient offices on most campuses.

Stanislav: How does it work in practice?

Zippy99: We’re seeking grant funding to answer that question. Lumina has expressed some interest, but the big player in this market is the Department of Defense. The potential applications to government are mind-boggling. And my mind is not easily boggled.

Stanislav: So you’re looking for pilot institutions?

Zippy99: Yes, absolutely. I’ve had some interest from a couple of small privates, but I think the benefits will be greater for a large state institution.

Stanislav: What kind of staffing would you need?

Zippy99: Delaying processes is hard work, and it takes a dedicated staff. An experienced Director of Delay, an Assistant director, and perhaps 7-10 staffers, depending on the size of the university.

Stanislav: How do you find experienced directors, given that you’ve just created this idea?

Zippy99: Oh, that’s not hard. I’d advertise for an IRB chair.

Stanislav: Supposing a small college wanted to implement your ideas, though. How might they go about it?

Zippy99: It's not rocket science. Put someone aggressive in charge of delay. It could be a faculty member with a stipend--often they have latent anger that's helpful. Then you'd need to create an ownership culture, an expectation that delay belongs to the SD Office, not to the registrar, for example. The delay director has to get in their business and say "Why are you slowing down this application? That's my job." And of course, you have to create the bureaucracy to support all of this. It really takes support of the president to enforce it. [expletive deleted] Missed my exit.
I lost contact with him at that point, but I think the case has been made. Judge for yourself.

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