Stupid is as stupid does (first appeared in InfoWorld)

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A couple of years ago I promoted “National Boycott Stupidity Day“, an event devoted to not watching Forrest Gump or anything else that actively promotes dumbness as a virtue.

The point of NBSD was to promote intelligence as the proper virtue, not to brand particular concepts, groups, or ideologies as stupid. “I disagree,” doesn’t mean “You’re a dope.”

Except for the following, relevant to topics covered recently in this column:

As yet more evidence of why policies are no substitute for judgment, I offer the latest example of policy untempered by judgment. According to the Associated Press, an 11-year-old girl received a two-week suspension from school because the 10-inch chain on her Tweety bird wallet, which connected it to her key rings, violated the school district’s zero-tolerance weapons policy.

Weapon? A trained assassin couldn’t strangle someone with a 10-inch wallet chain. I’ve seen this kind of merchandise. It’s far too shoddy to hold up to the strain, and besides, 10 inches is far too short to serve as a garrote. Maybe was she going peck someone’s eye out with Tweety’s beak.

Because of this inappropriately enforced policy, the girl suffers both humiliation and lost classroom time while nobody at all benefits. I figure, the only good that comes out of idiocy like this is that it promotes the most basic, bedrock American value — disrespect for authority.

So for rigid adherence to policy above and beyond the call of IQ, I hereby honor the culprits — the administrators of Garrett Middle School in suburban Atlanta — with our coveted Bureaucrat of the Year Award.

If you ever find yourself enforcing a policy because, “That’s our policy,” you’re a candidate yourself.

Meanwhile, on the cost-cutting front, here’s another fine example of failing to understand the connection between expense and income:

A correspondent’s wife used to work as a professional dietician for a healthcare services company. She and her colleagues were 100% billable at high margins, and demand exceeded supply.

As part of a larger cost-cutting exercise, her employer imposed a hiring freeze on dieticians, and laid off several besides. I’m quite sure the cost-cutters congratulated themselves on making “a hard decision” and I’m equally sure nobody ever figured out why financial performance failed to improve following these “tough cost-cutting measures”.

One more: A number of years ago, a company with which I’m familiar reduced the size of its customer service call center as part of a cost-reduction program. So as to not play favorites among its call center managers, it also shrank its order-entry call center. A year later, the CEO chartered a separate study to determine what the company could do to improve revenue growth. Guess where the study found an easy million bucks.

So to the administrators of Garrett Middle School, the cost-cutters who imposed a freeze on dietician positions, and the other cost-cutters who shrank an order-entry call center without first looking at call volume: If we ever do hold National Boycott Stupidity Day, don’t expect an invitation.

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