There Must be Useful Processes For Resolving Real World Edge Cases

One of the tragic facts of the Beirut Explosion is that not only was it preventable, but that the problem was reasonably well known. Many people knew that there was a bomb in the harbour and many tried to warn people about it, but nobody was sure who was responsible nor who should be demanded to take action.

The world is full of cases like this.

Most of us have worked in a company doing something wasteful with no clear path to resolve it. Entire departments can be generally aware of the waste, yet have no idea what to do about it.

On large government projects, plenty of people know when a project is going off the rails. But what are they supposed to do? It is not clear.

In most organizations, the answer would be to “tell your manager.” But generally they do not know so they pass it up to the next manager and then on to the next manager and this game of telephone continues until some manager forgets about it or does not know who to pass it on to.

Some organizations attempt to use hotlines, but these are not the answer, or at least not the entire answer. Wells Fargo had hotlines for reporting fraud, but whoever was operating those hotlines either had no power to change anything or was actively participating in the fraud (or was at least managed by someone who was participating). Employees cannot have meaningful confidence in that kind of system.

Even if the hotlines are not honey pots to catch disgruntled employees, it is equally possible for them to exist merely as morale boosters, with no avenue for actually resolving problems.

Maybe companies and governments just need a Department of Edge Cases. A group that has the highest level of authority to handle all of those issues which don’t clearly fall under anyone’s mandate. It is not as though large organizations face a shortage of problems internally for this group to tackle and they could very cheaply prevent some very serious issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *