September 2014 – Dumb Organizational Stuff

We have a section or our website for dumb ideas (click here) but we don’t seem to get many submissions. I know there is plenty of dumb stuff out there so keep in mind, we will show what you send in a confidential way. In any case, let me take out my frustrations and share a few recent ones I have experienced.

1. Notary’s
Why do governments still require notarized documents. If there is a bid on an RFP, why would anyone submit a bid in my name? The City would find out anyway. Or, would I apply for a permit in my name if it is really not me? Maybe there is a reason for all of this but I can’t figure it out. So, stop asking for notarized documents. It takes time and money.

2. Human Resource Departments
A recent Harvard Business Review article suggested it was time to get rid of HR Departments. They seem mostly designed to keep you from doing something, rather than be a support and help function. I recently asked one for staff turnover data for a project I am doing. The answer was, we don’t keep that kind of data. Or, try to fill a position for a person who has resigned before that person leaves so some good training could take place – it never happens. I doubt you can get rid of your HR Department but let’s start a national movement to bring them into this century.

3. RFPs
I have written about my frustrations with these in the past which you can see on our search engine. But, here is a new one. The RFP restricted the bid to 30 pages but then asked for the bid to be in a three ring binder with nine sections tabbed. Figure that one out. A few progressive communities are actually accepting bids by email.

4. Getting Paid
We had a number wrong on a pre-printed invoice. I simply hand corrected the number which was then turned down. My option was to re-type the form, re-print the form, or maybe (still waiting to see if it will work), make the hand correction, then copy it and send a Pdf.

5. Torn Up Signs
It is not unusual to tape various signs and announcements to the public counters. However, these are often torn or falling off the counter. This sends a message about the organization. It has been said that if you get a dirty coffee cup or dirty silverware when flying (when was the last time you actually had a coffee cup or silverware on an airplane?) then you conclude that the maintenance to the airline is also sloppy. This also relates to the broken window theory that says if you don’t fix a broken window, it will lead to other broken windows. So, reprint those announcements and signs and look like you are in business.

6. Broken Furniture
I keep seeing broken or unused chairs and furniture located in the reception areas and hallways of city halls. It was so bad with one of my clients that I said if they didn’t get it taken care of in the next 30 days I would rent a U-Haul and take it to the dump. Fortunately that lit a fire and I didn’t need to carry out my threat.

7. Phone Trees to nowhere
You don’t need to have me explain this one.

8. Glass Partitions At Counters
Let’s not try to give the impression that we want to get as far away from our customers as possible and that we are afraid they are here to rob us. I know you are going to tell me how hard it will be to get a remodel and correct the problem. Here is another approach that I used once while still a government employee. Give a six-pack to the janitor and ask them to take the glass out. Or, if you are handy, just do it yourself.

9. ?????????????????????????
I will be eager to get your submission.

The Management Doctor


Reader Responses

Love the janitor solution! A little creative problem-solving goes a long way toward fixing what otherwise might be a BIG HAIRY DEAL!
Kathryn R. Perry


I appreciate the helpful information in your tips sheet, but I have to disagree with the “no notary on permits” suggestion. Vesting property rights through the City Council, and construction of (hundreds of) thousands of dollars of improvements is too significant for the city to assume the risk of not having taken reasonable precaution to ensure correct authorization.

It is not infrequent that the business entity listed with the tax records has no direct relationship with the person doing the zoning filing or permit application. We regularly screen out zoning changes and building permits that are filed by tenants, management companies, or contractors (or their various and sundry agents and employees) that were made without the knowledge or approval of the property owner(s) – specifically that of the controlling owner(s). Office of General Counsel insists on a direct paper trail from the property owner having controlling management authority (board level authorization) to the applicant for a number of good legal reasons, including making sure the signature on the application wasn’t scribbled in by someone else in the line of authority. If it is a standard requirement for all signatures, then staff does not have to make a judgment call on a legal matter. The result is increased efficiency and effectiveness in-house.

Paul M Davis, ASLA, AICP
City Planner II


I appreciate the comments in the article and the responses that have come in so far.  I have a few more thoughts on these subjects: HR items – Filling a position before a person leaves does not cost that much and makes for a smoother transition in my experience.  RFPs – do RFQs first wherever possible.  It saves you and your staff time reviewing many detailed RFP responses and will be appreciated by the consulting firms who do respond.  The RFQ responses quite often can get you to a point where you can short-list a few firms then invite them to respond to a detailed RFP.  Hand correcting invoices –  if Planning and Building staff have authority to redline/allow applicants to redline small corrections on plans to expedite the permit process, shouldn’t the financial side of this process be the same?  And I whole-heartedly concur with the broken furniture and removal of the glass partitions.

Art Henriques
Land Use Planning & Management Consultant