Monday, September 25, 2006

Next Desk, Please

This is another excerpt from my book "My Friend W" published by Arriviste Press and available at selected Chapters stores and on-line through Chapters and Amazon. This piece originally appeared on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times:

THE NEW YORK TIMES - May 23, 2002
"Next Desk, Please"

OTTAWA — President Bush has come under critical fire because he supposedly received a warning of possible Al Qaeda attacks last August. The White House is deflecting the criticism as best it can, but the president is still feeling the heat. I think I can help. As a 20-year veteran of government bureaucracy, I suggest the following tried and true approaches, sure to work as well in Washington as they do in Ottawa:

1. Check your calendar. Sometimes you find that you were away from the office or on vacation when the problem arose. No one can fault you if you weren't there.

2. Point to your predecessor. This works especially well if you've only had your job for a short while. Check old memos and see if the last guy already ignored the same problem.

3. Find your own exculpatory memo. You know, the one that might say something like "In response to your memo, I recommend strong immediate action." If you can't find one anywhere, write it now!

4. Blame somebody else. If there's a subordinate (a general manager, say, or a vice president) who does all the real work, get him to take the fall.

5. Describe yourself as a big picture kind of guy. Explain that you're not a detail person. You can't be expected to read everything in lengthy two- or three-page memos, especially the stuff at the end.

6. Think outside the box. For example, might this have first come up the day the server was down?

7. Deny receipt. Unless your initials are on the memo, it's pretty hard to prove it ever made it to your desk.

8. When all else fails, rely on that old chestnut: "Hindsight is 20-20." It may be just a simple tautology, but it always seems to work.

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