Thursday, November 18, 2004

By the Book? Yes, I am....

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a “by the book” kind of guy. After many years of being around organizations big and small, I believe I’ve finally figured out why I have chosen to read “the book.” Usually, when someone accused me of being “by the book” (let’s make the BTB from here on out), it was because they thought it was a bad thing. I challenge you to think of it this way: I was just lazy. When someone in the military remarks that someone is BTB, it’s most often spoken in such tones that you cannot possibly miss the negative connotation it carries with it. Books in business or governmental settings are horribly dry reading. Full of blah, blah, blah and…. What people found out about how to do it the easy way through their mistakes. In the military arena, it is often said the books are written in blood. I’d be willing to bet the NAVSHIPSTECHMAN on the proper preparation of a steel surface for priming and painting had little or no blood on its pages, but the tactical doctrine to fight against anti-ship cruise missile attack had the blood of the crews of the USS STARK (FFG-31) and the HMS SHEFFIELD on them. So, if you have the ability to keep your eyes open and you get rewarded with explanations of why things are done the way they are done. This can provide you with reduced levels of tension, cure migraines and generally make you have a kinder and gentler disposition, now that you “know” why they did it like that. In addition to this basic information, you will be able to see when it is appropriate to lobby for a change. Maybe the old way was tied to manual methods that have become superceded by automation, yet no one has updated the procedures. There is, how ever, a dichotomy inherent in all of this: On one hand people dislike it when someone tells them to do it like the book, but they certainly don’t hesitate to tell you they are doing it “this way” because “that’s how we do it.” I came to look at the study of documents on policy and procedure as a method to also determine what were the circumstances under which these procedures were to he carried out (the “normal” cases) and, by derivation, when you rightfully needed to come up with your own plan. It’s one thing to think you’re out of the box, it’s another to know you most certainly are. When you find yourself out of the box, your hard earned BTB information provides you with a foundation of knowledge to work with, while you rapidly work to get the chaos under control., rather than standing dumbfounded. See how it’s all about lazy? I’d rather let someone else make the mistakes, and therefore, I lessen the opportunity to repeat them, thinking that my stupidity is something original. Another angle to take on the BTB philosophy is that of the fiscal one. If you do things the way someone figured them out already, you should be able to be more efficient. Now, unless you have a “make the work expand to fit the remaining time” type of boss, then you have the option of bagging out sooner, an opportunity to get in some afternoon golf. The other side of the financial stuff here is if you read the book, and see the “procedure” is just plain wasteful, and you choose not to take the time to fix it, then you are not being very responsible with the dollars of whoever is putting money in your hand on payday. So, there’s my chaotic thoughts on being “by the book.”

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