Quotations about   bureaucracy

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Most of the activities of any bureaucracy are devoted not to the organization’s ostensible goals, but to ensuring that the organization survives: because if they aren’t, the bureaucracy has a life expectancy measured in days before some idiot decision maker decides that if it’s no use to them they can make political hay by destroying it. It’s no consolation that some time later someone will realize that an organization was needed to carry out the original organization’s task, so a replacement is created: you still lost your job and the task went undone. The only sure way forward is to build an agency that looks to its own survival before it looks to its mission statement. Just another example of evolution in action.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score, ch. 16 (2015)
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Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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The five stages of bureaucratic grieving are: denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating, and cover-up.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)

Satirizing the Kübler-Ross model of grief.
Added on 16-May-17 | Last updated 16-May-17
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Bureaucracies are inefficient by design. Inefficiency is the twin sister of redundancy, of overcapacity, of the ability to plow through a swamp by brute force alone.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
Added on 25-Apr-17 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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There is a role for bureaucracy; it’s very useful for certain tasks. In particular, it facilitates standardization and interchangeability. Bureaucracies excel at performing tasks that must be done consistently whether the people assigned to them are brilliant performers or bumbling fools. You can’t always count on having Albert Einstein in the patent office, so you design its procedures to work even if you hire Mr. Bean by mistake.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
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Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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The Laundry field operations manual is notably short on advice for how to comport one’s self when being held prisoner aboard a mad billionaire necromancer’s yacht, other than the usual stern admonition to keep receipts for all expenses incurred in the line of duty.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Jennifer Morgue (2006)
Added on 24-Jan-17 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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In the Laundry we supposedly pride ourselves on our procedures. We’ve got procedures for breaking and entering offices, procedures for reporting a shortage of paper clips, procedures for summoning demons from the vasty deeps, and procedures for writing procedures. We may actually be on track to be the world’s first ISO-9000 total-quality-certified intelligence agency. According to our written procedure for dealing with procedural cluster-fucks on foreign assignment, what I should do at this point is fill out Form 1008.7, then drive like a bat out of hell over Highway 17 until it hits the Interstate, then take the turnoff for San Francisco Airport and use my company credit card to buy the first available seat home. Not forgetting to file Form 1018.9 (“expenses unexpectedly incurred in responding to a situation 1008.7 in the line of duty”) in time for the end of month accounting cycle.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Atrocity Archives (2004)
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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Murder investigations start with the victim because usually in the first instance that’s all you’ve got. The study of the victim is called victimology because everything sounds better with an ology tacked on the end. To make sure that you make a proper fist of this, the police have developed the world’s most useless mnemonic: 5 x WH & H. Otherwise known as Who? What? Where? When? Why? & How? Next time you watch a real murder investigation on the TV and you see a group of serious-looking detectives standing around talking, remember that what they’re actually doing is trying to work out what sodding order the mnemonic is supposed to go in. Once they’ve sorted that out the exhausted officers will retire to the nearest watering hole for a drink and a bit of a breather.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Moon Over Soho (2011)
Added on 25-Nov-15 | Last updated 25-Nov-15
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If there’s anything a public servant hates to do it’s something for the public.

Kin Hubbard (1868-1930) American caricaturist and humorist [Frank McKinney Hubbard]
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Nov-15 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
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Institutions like to continue doing what they have been doing, always on a grander scale, if possible. When old enemies disappear, mellow, or turn into allies, as frequently happens in international relations, new enemies must be found and new threats must be discovered. The failure to replenish the supply of enemies is the supreme threat facing any national security bureaucracy.

Richard J. Barnet (1929-2004) American scholar, writer, activist
Roots of War, 5.1 (1971)
Added on 18-Aug-15 | Last updated 18-Aug-15
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And God said, Let there be light, and there was light; but Eastern Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.

Terence Alan "Spike" Milligan (1918-2002) Anglo-Irish comedian, writer, actor
The Bible According to Spike Milligan, “The Creation According to the Trade Unions” (1994)
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Quoted in Spike Milligan's Meaning of Life: A Sort of Autobiography, ch. 1 (2011) [ed. Norma Farnes]
Added on 13-Aug-15 | Last updated 13-Aug-15
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A bureaucrat is one who has the power to say “no” but none to say “yes”. Bureaucrats can find an infinite number of reasons for rejecting any proposed change, but can find none for accepting it.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
A Little Book of F-laws (2006)
Added on 1-Apr-15 | Last updated 1-Apr-15
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The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they’re organized for.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) American writer
Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
Added on 4-Dec-14 | Last updated 4-Dec-14
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Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
“How the Church Will Change,” interview with Eugenio Scalfari, La Repubblica (1 Oct 2013) [tr. K Wallace]
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Added on 8-Oct-14 | Last updated 8-Oct-14
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Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud, and vain.

Samuel Butler (1612-1680) English poet, satirist, painter, philosopher [Hudibras Butler]
“Miscellaneous Thoughts,” l. 283
Added on 8-Apr-14 | Last updated 8-Apr-14
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