On efficiency

A friend of mine who is working in public health in a South American country writes great email updates about the specifics of her work, which often end up illustrating something universal. I thought this note -- about the latest delays in accomplishing a relatively simple task that has taken weeks when it should have taken hours, or maybe half a day at most -- nicely illustrates how much time can be wasted through the accumulation of minor inconveniences or annoyances. No single act is backed by poor intentions, but the final effect is that no one can get much done. Shared with permission:

Today’s visit to the Municipality of [...] was particularly silly.

It went like this: I arrived at 10:45am and went to the Budget Office. The Budget Office sent me to Provisions Office, which sent me back to Budget Office, which sent me backed to Provisions Office accompanied by a secretary.

The Provisions Office sent us to the Head Administration Office, which sent us to a different Administration office on a different floor, which sent us back down to the Provisions Office, which sent us back up to the Administration Office, which sent us back down to the Provisions Office. This all took an hour.

Then, I waited in the Provisions Office while they looked for the resolution that was supposed to be attached to my project, and they all blamed a different secretary in the office for why they couldn’t find it. After an hour of waiting in the Provisions Office, I got tired and hungry and had to pee, so I made up an excuse for why I had to leave and I asked when I should come back and where I should go.

They told me to come back in two days, which is what they always tell me. So, I’ll go back in two days.