Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Zen of Bureaucracy begins

Most of us are familiar with one or more Zen proverbs, those enigmatic aphorisms that impart some kernel of wisdom about life. I recently discovered an ancient apocryphal Oriental text entitled "The Zen of Bureaucracy" which I believe will add to that storehouse of helpful knowledge. As I carefully examine this ersatz work over the coming months, I will share with you the proverbs that I uncover. Here is the first:

"The answer lies not in clarity but rather in obfuscation."

As I perused the ancient text, I discovered the aphorisms were ordered by category. The first grouping was headed "On Memoranda" which, if nothing else, establishes that memos have been the number one bureaucratic communication medium of choice for thousands of years.

I think the meaning of this first adage is clear in urging the writer to be anything but. Anyone who toils in a large bureaucracy, be it public or private, knows the truth of this saying. Seldom will you benefit yourself or your career by being straightforward and plainspoken, especially when you're putting it in writing. Unless you are a CEO or the head of an organization, it is best to waffle and conceal your true opinions as much as possible.

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