“Viola Tors wanted more community involvement, public hearings, more transparency, a poll, an environmental impact study …She was a killer of wonderful ideas and like so many murderers, she used procedure as a weapon.”
Viola Tors features in Liberty, the latest tale from Lake Wobegon by that wise observer of human foibles, Garrison Keillor. A member of her local Fourth of July committee, Viola hails from small-town Minnesota; but one suspects she would be quite at home in the offices of any one of those big organisations where, on any given day, following detailed consultation with partners and stakeholders, major strategies are being identified, designed and implemented in order to initiate short-life project working groups tasked with significant action plans.
Now these processes may be necessary, they may even be essential, but that doesn’t mean they make for exciting reading. Expect people outside your organisation to be interested in its procedures and you might as well ask a perfect stranger to take an interest in the workings of your large intestine. Yet forests are felled in order that these rumblings of the corporate gut can be trumpeted to the world at large.
Behind them, more often than not, there are real people with real conviction doing real things, but you would never know it from the language. Indeed it’s sometimes quite hard to figure out what the organisation in question actually does.
And wherever the language of process is allowed to stifle the language of purpose, you can be fairly sure that somewhere not far off there’s the dismal sound of creativity being strangled. Viola Tors would be sharpening her pencil.