Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Friday, April 27, 2007


On Tuesday I noticed that it had been three weeks since the new issue of Locus was purported to have mailed, and I had not yet received my copy. On Wednesday I called their offices (after the mail came) and they confirmed my address and then agreed to send me a new copy. On Thursday? My issue arrived. Barring some amazing advances at the post office, I anticpate receiving a second copy in the next couple weeks. Of course.

I mention this because, while I've only had time to flip through the magazine, there is something that I read and enjoyed. In his editor's notes, Charles Brown rails at great length against the state of the awards in the industry. He describes it as "Fewer and fewer people voting, and all of them voting for each other." While he doesn't get completely specific, he does say that several of the nomiated pieces (for the Nebula) are unreadable, and points out works that made the long list, but not the final cut. He concludes by suggesting that SFWA just terminates the awards all together.

Charles Brown is a man after my own heart. It gladdens me to see such clear-sighted rage at what is basically an inbred process. Huzzah. I posted about this earlier, but I'd like to reiterate my position. Awards are pointless. Let's focus on growing the industry in ways that the public (the people who buy books, read books or may potentially buy books in the future) understands, rather than gathering in banquet halls and patting each other on the back. The systems that are in place do not work. Shutdown.

Work problems. I don't think it's any secret that I'm less than enthusiastic about my job. I've been here almost ten years (ick) and in that time I've seen a lot of incompetence tolerated and a lot of mistakes covered up. People have been advanced or hired in spite of their skills, rather than because of their skills. We have a lot of "processes" in place to ensure quality, and they keep failing. About two months ago we had a job that was done wrong. The wrong piece was inserted and the customer was livid. There were three checks on this job, three different people who had looked over the job and signed off on what was being done. There was a checksheet, for god's sake. And it still went out wrong. What was our solution? We added a fourth check. Yeah.

In that meeting, where it was decided that we're adding this additional set of eyes, I was just disgusted. Checksheets aren't going to solve anything if the people who are signing off have no personal responsibility. And I said "Okay, so we're going to implement this extra check. I only have one question. Does anyone here think that's going to solve anything? Do any of us think this is going to cause this to not happen again?"

One of the results, here, is that I've had extra stuff laid on me. Responsibilities beyond the scope of my original job. And nobody checks the things I do. Natch.

So last month, we had this job. Pretty big client, a local homebuilder who develops huge communities. They're doing this promotion, where if you buy a house from them in May you get a free $1000 tv. They wanted to make sure the people who had *just* bought a house didn't get the mailing, though, so we were supposed to purge out the recent buyers from the database.

I totally didn't do it. Just forgot. Usually someone else writes my workorders, I process them, then someone else checks them before they go to inkjet. This time I wrote the job, processed the job, and tore the job apart for the shop. And it was wrong.

So now people are calling this homebuilder, saying that they just bought a house, gosh it'd be nice to have that tv. And since it's a huge company, they're saying "Sure, it's the right thing to do!" which I understand. But you see where this is going.

If everyone who got the mailing but shouldn't have tries to get a tv, it's half a million dollars. That's not going to happen. But if 1 in 10 of them does it, we're still looking at $40k. That's money we don't have. Not by a lot. Years and years of perfect complacency and minimal effort have left us in a tight way, and this may push us over. It's bad, because it's my fault, but it's worse because it's the corporate culture of this place that let it happen, and made it something we couldn't survive. Maybe nothing will come of it. Maybe they'll just fire us and find a new mailhouse. Maybe.

But the worst part? I let it happen. I used to be really hardcore about personal responsibility. I still am, but I wouldn't have made this mistake five years ago, or even two. But this place is eroding me. I'm better than this.


At 11:47 AM , Anonymous Scott Janssens said...

Re awards: Amen, brother!

At 1:30 PM , Blogger Colin Peters said...

Yeah, re the awards, it's good to know you're not alone.

Re work: Harsh. I don't know what to say, but I hope you make it out OK.

At 3:29 PM , Blogger Marshdrifter said...

Even people who are totally dedicated to their job make mistakes. The whole point of having the steps of checking the work is to catch the mistakes that a person has made. Having the same person do all the steps ensures that mistakes (including important ones such as yours) will get through.

Responsibility is 'fessing up to your role in the mistakes made, not making the mistakes or falling victim to the ineptly enacted corporate processes. Your company needs to seriously consider why the processes in place exist and needs to focus on the reasons and not the processes. I'm amazed that anybody could actually create a business without doing such. At the risk of being ruthlessly free-market, perhaps it would be best for everybody if the company just failed (providing you could find another, hopefully better, job).


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