Tuesday, June 15, 2004

All they taught you at school was how to be a good worker. The system has failed you, don't fail yourself.

Total Quality = Total Bollocks

Back in my early days as a journalist, one of my regular tasks was to write advertising features. The basis of these was that a company would pay for me to visit, interview the boss, organise a picture and then write it all up for publication.

It would then appear in the paper, alongside their advert, under a banner saying: "Advertising Feature", which may as well have read: "Don't believe any of this - we were paid to include it".

Anyway, there were a number of stories that appeared time and time again. Refurbishments of social clubs were a favourite. After a while, to amuse ourselves, we used to see how often we could get away with the same intro: "*insert name here* is looking better than ever thanks to a *insert sum here* refurbishment that has proved a massive hit with its *insert number here* members."

At Christmas we would also have to produce a special festive supplement. I once managed to write an entire 16 page pull-out without ringing a single person for interview. The next year we dug up the same text and rehashed it once more.

Amongst these regular features was Total Quality, a business accreditation that was very fashionable in the early to mid nineties. Like all these certificates, one company would achieve it and then would get all snooty and refuse to deal with any suppliers who weren't Total Quality. They would then be forced to obtain it and on and on it would go down a long chain of suppliers.

They would then take out an ad feature to tell the world they were now Total Quality and what a difference it had made to Sandra in accounts.

Total Quality was to the business world as McDonalds is to restaurants. Basically it strips out the expertise and experience and instead documents every process so that a visiting alien from the planet Tharg could step into an office role at the drop of a hat.

The system would be slavishly followed by all employees and just to make sure, Total Quality bods would drop by from time-to-time to ensure it was still adhered to.

Which is fine. (Rant coming here). But I'm sick of systems. I'm sick of the fact that if I ring a client, who owes me money, they say: "Right, well it's Tuesday, if you send us a copy of the invoice today, then I can process it tomorrow, send it on to accounts payable on Thursday, who will put it in the system on Friday and then they will send you a cheque on Monday, which should be with you Tuesday."

To which I of course reply: "How about if I drove round now with a copy and then someone could write me a cheque there and then and I could take it home with me?"

And the reply: "I'm sorry but that is not how the system operates."

Trouble is, in this situation, there is no beating the system. Every action takes such a ridiculous amount of time and this is before I have to wait five whole working days for the bank to clear the cheque.

And why does each step in the system have to take a day each? Can't anyone achieve more than one task a day?

In other words, having managed to kickstart the system today, at best I will receive a cheque on Tuesday, and it's likely to clear two weeks tomorrow.

That is ridiculous. It may have been fine in the days when communications were done by snail mail but in these days of near-instant email it is ludicrous.

When I set up on my own I got all the requisite computer gear, printer, scanner etc. One item of office machinery I didn't invest in is a fax. Who the hell uses fax these days? I'll tell you who does, bloody accounts departments that's who. I can just imagine them, sitting there covered in decade of dust and occasionally shuffling over to their nasty shiny paper fax to pick up another invoice that will go into the bastard f*cking system

And yes, I'm only this angry about it because I am skint. Made worse by the fact that I am heading off to Glastonbury in just over a week's time and I don't even have the cash to tax, MOT and insure the car, never mind keep me in Rizlas and munchies.

It's driving me absolutely nuts.

And before anyone starts to tell me about what the Government are doing to stop this, the money outstanding is from three separate Government organisations. If they cannot pay me on time then how the hell do they expect private businesses to behave responsibly in this area?

Some money, in the bank account of my clients.

Every weekend when I have a "quiet one" due to lack of funds, I try to cheer myself with the fact that money will soon be paid and the next Friday and Saturday will be more entertaining. When there are no cheques by Tuesday then you pin your hopes on having it cleared for the following weekend and so on and so on. It's soul destroying.

Bloody systems. Its an excuse for slow payment and crap service. The one phrase I really try to avoid with clients is "no, sorry I can't do that". If necessary I work all night to hit deadlines, so how come they insist on such a "can't do" culture themselves?

To quote Bob Geldof:

"Just give us yer f*cking money. I'm not doing this for the good of my health".

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.