Paint it yellow! Living in a world of numbers. From "Triumph of the Airheads"

Today's quote comes to us from Triumph Of The Airheads, and The Retreat From Commonsense, a wonderful book by Shelley Gare, an Australian journalist.

The book postulates that "The airheads are winning and so are airhead values. We live in a world where ignorance is not just bliss, it's celebrated. Celebrities are multiplying like tadpoles; millionaires are breeding even faster; values have gone out the window, and commonsense has run off with the pool-boy. Soon we'll be talking about Paris Hilton for US president. Even the current president doesn't know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. "


The book is full of skewering insightful lines, but this is one of my favourites, very relevant for ITSM:

This obsession with statistics, measurements and numbers can make it feel as if we live in a world with a government decree that all important things be painted yellow. Except that important things like horses or cows or flowers can't be painted. Ah, say the people at the top, squinting through their prisms, if it cannot be painted yellow, it cannot be important. this is the odd and potentially terrible side-effect of this obsession. Anything that can't be put into numerical form is somehow regarded as immaterial or ephemeral, even though we should all know that the most important things in life can never be measured.

I can't resist another one. Ms Gare quotes ethicist Onora O'Neill from the 2002 Reith Lectures on the BBC:

"The idea of audit has been exported from its original financial context to cover ever more detailed scrutiny of non-financial processes and systems. Performance indicators are used to measure adequate and inadequate performance with supposed precision. This audit explosion... has often displaced or marginalised older systems of accountability... The new legislation, regulation and controls... require detailed conformity to procedures and protocols, detailed record-keeping and provision of information in specified formats"

Oh alright, last one, from Ms Gare again:

Managerialism has dressed itself up in jargon and double-speak and woof-woof language as well as expensive clothes, high-powered cars and Blackberrys. It does a very good job of looking much, much smarter and cleverer than it is. When PriceWaterhouseCoopers investigated the $360 million foreign exchange scandal at the National Australia Bank and reported in early 2004, it found in the bank's culture "that there was an excessive focus on process, documentation and procedure manuals rather than on understanding the substance of issues, taking responsibilty and resolving matters"

I commend this book to everyone.

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